Kyffin Williams

Discover the life and work of one of the most celebrated painters in Wales

By The National Library of Wales

Mountains with blue sky (Between 1970 and 1990) by Kyffin Williams (1918-2006)The National Library of Wales

Who is Kyffin Willliams?

A landscape and portrait painter, a draughtsman, writer, lecturer, cartoonist and raconteur, Kyffin Williams is one of the most famous figures within Welsh art.

Cloud on Foel Goch (Between 1960 and 1961) by Kyffin Williams (1918-2006)The National Library of Wales

Best known for his impasto landscapes of Wales and vigorous portraits of local and national personalities, his style has become the epitome of the nation and his work a definition of Welshness.

Kyffin Williams Self Portrait (1970) by Kyffin Williams (1918-2006)The National Library of Wales

The Self-Portraits

Kyffin’s self-portraits provide a glimpse into the various aspects of his character; the quizzical young man, the serious moustachioed artist with palette in hand and the eccentric portrayed in his humorous caricatures.

Stormy sea (Between 1970 and 1990) by Kyffin Williams (1918-2006)The National Library of Wales

After joining the army in 1937, he was invalided out in 1941 having developed epilepsy, an illness which he would suffer from, along with depression, throughout his life.

Rhos y bol (Between 1960 and 1970) by Kyffin Williams (1918-2006)The National Library of Wales

Fortunately, his strong urge to paint overcame this malaise and lethargy, and he realised that his condition could be manipulated and turned into a highly effective catalyst for his art.

Welsh pony grazing at the coast (Between 1960 and 1970) by Kyffin Williams (1918-2006)The National Library of Wales

Artistic Style

His early works were produced using a brush, although he quickly developed a style characterised by a thick impasto, with the oil paint applied almost exclusively with a palette knife.

Hugh Rowlands (Between 1990 and 2006) by Kyffin Williams (1918-2006)The National Library of Wales

Kyffin never saw himself as a traditional portrait painter and once said, “Every portrait I have painted has been a considerable strain, for nothing comes easily to me, but I believe that some of my best work has been of the many interesting faces I have painted.”

Farmer amongst the rocks (Between 1990 and 2006) by Kyffin Williams (1918-2006)The National Library of Wales

The Places

As a young boy, Kyffin would follow the local hunt among the hills and valleys of North Wales. These scenes were stored in a ‘visual library’ in his mind, which resonated throughout his life as a landscape painter.

Coastal sunset (Between 1990 and 2006) by Kyffin Williams (1918-2006)The National Library of Wales

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.

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