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Rare chance to see work by Betws-y-Coed artists' colony

A View in the Lledr Valley, 1864 by James Jackson Curnock RCA
Many artists settled in Betws-y-Coed's Llanrwst Road

The re-publication of a book on Betws-y-Coed's 19th century artists' colony has inspired an exhibition of paintings not normally on public view.

The Snowdonia village was once a hub of artistic activity during the 1800s and became known as the first artists' colony in Britain.

Works from the period inspired by the Conwy Valley landscape are currently on display at Bangor's Gwynedd Museum and Art Gallery, featuring artists such as David Cox and Clarence Whaite.

"We felt that sometimes, some of our artistic history isn't acknowledged," said Gwynedd Council's vision arts officer, Delyth Gordon.

"People think it's an artistic desert in Wales and that our strength lies in our literary history."

When she heard about the re-publication of leading art historian Peter Lord's book about the Betws-y-Coed artists, Delyth decided to contact private owners to put together this exhibition.

"The artists aren't such big names now, but in their time they were well-known and they left a very important artistic heritage," she added.

Old Farmer, late 1880s by Henry Clarence Whaite
Artist David Cox drew the original sign for the Royal Oak pub, Betws-y-Coed

"It reminds us that there really is a beauty to our landscape."

Many of the artists flocked to Betws-y-Coed to learn more from David Cox, a prominent Victorian painter who made his home at the Royal Oak Hotel each summer.

They were particularly drawn to St Michael's Church, which stands beside the river at Betws-y-Coed.

Among them was Henry Clarence Whaite (1828-1912), a favourite with one collector who has loaned pictures to the gallery, including many of his sketches, often made in preparation for larger works of art.

"The works are in great condition and they look so fresh," said Delyth.

"We have some great examples of those who came to the Conwy Valley to paint, and who subsequently set up the Royal Cambrian Academy at Conwy."

The exhibition will run until 13 November.




SEE ALSO
Victorian painter's love of Wales
29 Mar 09 |  Wales

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