Page last updated at 07:58 GMT, Sunday, 27 July 2008 08:58 UK

Life of Welsh art patron on show

 Evan Walters, Mother and Babe, 1919, oil on canvas, private collection
Winifred Coombe Tennant was the Evan Walters' patron

She was a suffragette, a supporter of Welsh Prime Minister Lloyd George, a psychic medium and for a decade wore traditional Welsh costume every day.

Now Winifred Coombe Tennant is being remembered as one of the significant art patrons of the last century.

A new exhibition in Cardiff delves into the life of the woman who befriended Welsh artists and collected their work.

The museum's curator Beth McIntyre described Coombe Tennant as a "fascinating woman".

"Last year we showcased the exhibition of international art collected by sisters Gwendoline and Margaret Davies," explained Beth McIntyre.

"This exhibition A Life Through Art will focus on Winifred Coombe Tennant's contribution."

 Winifred Coombe Tennant with David Lloyd George at the National Eisteddfod at Treorchy, 1928 (Picture:The National Library of Wales)
Born in 1874; she married Charles Coombe Tennant of Cadoxton Lodge, Neath where they lived for 30 years
Although not a Welsh speaker, she was a member of the gorsedd as the robes mistress at the National Eisteddfod 1927/28
She represented Britain as a delegate to the League of Nations
She was the most closely studied psychic medium of her period
She experience trance like states which made her believe firmly in the continuity of the life of the individual afterdeath
Died in 1956
Source: National Museum Cardiff

Though not on the same scale as the famous collection of impressionist works collected by the Davies sisters from mid Wales, Winifred Coombe Tennant's work includes well known Welsh painters like Evan Walters, Sir Kyffin Williams, and Gwen John.

A person of moderate wealth who had married into a Neath family, she assisted the artists with personal support and was commended for her work in the development of young Welsh painters.

The exhibition, curated by art historian Peter Lord, brings together some 80 paintings.

Some of these Coombe Tennant bought for the Glynn Vivian Gallery, for which she was the official London buyer, and others she bought for herself.

The exhibition, organised by the National Library of Wales, also includes the patron's diaries and letters accompany which give an insight into her relationships with artists working in Wales.

"Due to her love of Kyffin Williams' work, the museum will display a large variety of his paintings.

"She was the first and most important patron of Evan Walters as she owned 49 of his works.

Kyffin Williams, Skye from Harris, 1954, oil on canvas
Coombe Tennant was a great admirer of Sir Kyffin Williams

"When she was young she knew Gwen John and meeting Augustus John after World War II was one of the highlights in her life."

But Ms McIntyre said the patron's life outside the world of art was equally consuming.

"She was a suffragette, she met Emily Pankhurst, she was a peace campaigner, she knew Lloyd George, she even stood for parliament."

Through her son, who was killed in World War I, Coombe Tennant also go involved with the National Eisteddfod for which she was a member of the gorsedd becoming the robes mistress.

"She was a great believer in natural dyes and promoting traditional Welsh clothes," explained Ms McIntrye.

"From 1898 for 10 years she wore the Welsh national costume every day."

Alongside her public life, she also worked in secret as a psychic medium.

"She had two children who died and she really believed that she could contact them and that there was something beyond bodily death."

This interest also impacted on her understanding of art, said Ms McIntyre.

"She liked to think that artists were geniuses - and that their work transcended pure images."

Winifred Coombe Tennant: A life through art will be housed at National Museum from 26 July till 9 November, 2008.


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