Grande Dames and Human Struggles

From Planet 253

by Ceri Thomas

Ceri Thomas gives an in-depth review of the National Library of Wales exhibition ‘Cyfoes’, placing it in the context of seminal art shows over the decades, and applauds how it redresses historical gender imbalances in the Welsh art establishment.

As one approaches the mighty Gregynog Gallery it is a large, vibrant painting by Mary Lloyd Jones that beckons to us and provides the establishing shot for what is a sensitively curated and extensive exhibition. Upon entry, this grand, elegant space unfolds to the left and right and the pivotal presence of her picture is confirmed. The Welsh-speaking artist, who reaches ninety in 2024, has become a grande dame of Welsh art. In ‘Cyfoes’ it is her turn to be in the principal spotlight, whereas in earlier group shows of this type it would probably have been the late Sir Kyffin Williams enjoying the main attention, an example of whose work is now placed in a far corner.

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About the author

Dr Ceri Thomas’s latest book is Shaping Art in Wales: David Bell, Kathleen Armistead and the Modern Artist (published by the Hmm Foundation in November 2023). Throughout March 2024, his curated and related, group exhibition ‘Imaging Wales: Then and Now’ is being shown at the Royal Cambrian Academy, of which he is a Vice President.