This month marks ten years since the death of Kyffin Williams – arguably the greatest Welsh artist of the later twentieth century. As art historian Dr Gareth Lloyd Roderick stated he was in a popular sense the ‘national’ painter of Wales and was made Royal Academician in 1973. Born in Llangefni, Anglesey in 1918 Kyffin Williams stated in his memoir ‘Across the Straits’ that his life aim was to record the land and the people of his childhood. His use of a thick oil paint heavily applied onto the canvas with his palette knife was typical of Kyffin’s style and became iconographic. Through this unique application of paint one felt an intense energy flowing from his work. He was an expressionist painter and stated that the best works he created were when he allowed himself to be ‘…swept away into a fever of exuberance or even anger, the better the final result has been; while conscious thought has invariably brought disaster’. As an epileptic he felt an intense obsession to paint and was therefore a prolific painter- completing up to three paintings a week. One may also assume that the artist’s struggle with depression played its part in his works as well. Kyffin stated that there is a ‘…a seam of melancholy that is within most Welshmen, a melancholy that derives from the dark hills, the heavy clouds and the enveloping sea mists’.
The National Library and Kyffin had a close relationship and upon his death in 2006 a large section of his estate came to the Library. The National Library possesses the largest number of Kyffin Williams works in the world.
Assistant Art Curator