Welsh Landscapes

Explore the history and scenic landscapes of Wales through art

By The National Library of Wales

Bryn y Garth-Lwyd, near Capel Curig (1878) by T. Scott Callowhill (fl. 1878-)The National Library of Wales

Wales, a country of some 8,017 square miles at the western edge of Britain with a population of just over three million, is geographically speaking, comparatively small.

Cardiff (1822) by Penry Williams (1802-1885)The National Library of Wales

Although small in size its magnificent landscape has been central to the history of Welsh art over the centuries.

South West View of Penmon Priory Church &c, Anglesey (1810) by John Chessell Buckler (1793-1894)The National Library of Wales

During the second part of the 18th century Wales became a popular destination for artists. Due to the Napoleonic Wars people could no longer travel to Europe (especially for the ‘Grand Tour’) and so artists turned their attention to Britain.

General view of the town & castle of Caernarvon from Tut Hill (12 July 1790) by John Warwick Smith (1749-1831)The National Library of Wales

Wales, with its mountainous landscape full of scattered relics and ancient castles, its unique language and mythology attracted artists from all over Britain.

Kilgerran Castle (c. 1800) by Richard Wilson (1713-1782)The National Library of Wales

One of these artists was Richard Wilson (1712/13-1782) famous for his romantic depictions of the Welsh landscape such as this painting of Cilgerran Castle, Pembrokeshire.

An Overshot Mill in Wales (c. 1847) by Ward, JamesThe National Library of Wales

Another leading artist of the British Romantic movement was James Ward (1769-1859) and his work 'Aberdulais Mill' is a fine example of how Wales attracted artists from across Britain during the 18th and 19th centuries in search of the ‘picturesque’.

As can be seen in this work of Aberdulais Mill which is situated on the River Dulais, Aberdulais, South Wales he was a Romantic painter and a master in the portrayal of light. His attention to detail is beyond compare and his great expertise in painting the animal form is plain to see.

Dolbadarn Castle (1799-1800) by J. M. W. Turner (1775-1851)The National Library of Wales

Aberdulais Mill drew a number of artists to record its picturesque setting including the great artist J.M.W. Turner in 1796. Significant to Turner's work is also his enigmatic oil painting of Dolbadarn Castle near Llanberis in North Wales.

Owain Goch ap Gruffydd was imprisoned by his brother Llywelyn ap Gruffydd (the last indigenous Prince of Wales) at Dolbadarn Castle for insurrection for 20 years in 1257. It was a tragic event in the history of Welsh indigenous rule.

Turner’s enigmatic work alludes to it through the atmospheric sky, the figures in the foreground and the visible presence of the haunting tower. Owain Gwynedd is depicted as wearing a red tunic and is being led by the soldiers to the castle.

Penrhyn Slate Quarries near Bangor, N.W (1850) by Newman & Co.The National Library of Wales

Culturally, the landscapes of Wales have been shaped by the mining industry.

South Wales industrial landscape (c. 1825) by Penry Williams (1798-1885)The National Library of Wales

The numerous slate quarries of North Wales and the South Wales coalfields together with their abundant productivity over the global market have had an impact on the people, communities and outstanding landscape of Wales.

The entrance to Llangollen, North Wales (1792) by Julius Caesar Ibbetson (1759-1817)The National Library of Wales

Without a doubt, the thousands of images from the length and breadth of Wales treasured at The National Library of Wales reflects the allure the Welsh landscape held for artists during this period.

The National Library of Wales here. 
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