The Doges Palace and Grand Canal Venice

by Kyffin Williams

£18,500

Once determined on an artistic course, Williams’ passion for work was all-consuming and there was never any question as to his subject matter, with the landscape before him demanding to be drawn or painted. Venice, in particular, had always been an inspiration for Williams, first learning about Venetian painters like Canaletto and Guardi at Slade Art School, as well as those who visited including Monet, Turner and Sickert, to then being able to see the works he had admired for years in person, with his first visit to the city in 1950. As Williams states:

I had always loved its exuberance and lack of inhibition and now I was able to see some of the greatest paintings in the world’.

Thus, Venice went on to be a place that inspired the artist for more than half a century, producing many paintings in a variety of media: oil, watercolour, drawings and ink. He was fascinated by the way the light mirrored on the ever-present water and the elegance of the city, but also chose to depict the more unseen angles of Venice unlike his peers. As with this ink drawing, The Doges Palace and Grand Canal Venice, Williams depicts a view of the city at night time, still maintaining his distinctive style by painting the mirrored light of Venice in the colours of North Wales, using dark tones and loose brushstrokes, putting his own impression on Venice. Although, you can still see the effect of light as the dominant feature.

DIMENSIONS: (unframed) 12.2 x 18.9 in./ 31.0 x 18.9 cm
SIGNATURE: Monogrammed lower right
MEDIUM: Ink on Paper

 

 

The modern British painter, Sir John ‘Kyffin’ Williams has become widely regarded as the defining artist of Wales during the 20th century, as he is known for his limited colour palette and distinctive painting technique of thick impasto, using a palette-knife, which has now become instantly recognisable.

Private collection, United Kingdom

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Born in 1918, in Llangefni on the Isle of Anglesey Williams was brought up in rural Wales surrounded by farmland, with his family having long historic and landowning connections on the island. Williams attended school in Shropshire, first at Moreton Hall and then when his family moved to the countryside of south Caernarvonshire he attended Shrewsbury School.

Upon leaving school at the age of 17, Williams became land agent for Messrs Yale & Hardcastle in Pwllheli which increased his knowledge for the landscape of North Wales, gradually forming the foundations of his future life as a landscape painter. However in 1936 Williams was commissioned into the Territorial Army, joining the 6th Battalion Royal Welsh Fusiliers and being stationed in Northern Ireland until 1941. Although, after having experienced epileptic attacks since joining Williams was summoned to military hospital for tests and diagnosed with epilepsy, consequently declaring him medically unfit for the army.

At this stage, Williams’ doctor recommended he consider taking up art and later that year he enrolled in the Slade School of Art, which was based in the Ashmolean Museum in Oxford during the war. Here Williams discovered on of his great inspirations, the painting by Piero della Francesca, Resurrection in one of the library books. The feeling of intense emotion in the piece and particularly the level of compassion Piero had depicted in the eyes of Christ, excited Williams as he returned to his art studies with a new sense of purpose and direction. In 1943 he won the Slade Portrait Prize and again in 1944 he was awarded the Robert Ross Leaving Scholarship.

Williams then began working as an art master at Highgate School in London, teaching there until 1974 whilst also progressing his own work and style, including through his travels to numerous places over the years, including Italy in 1950, and later on Austria, Paris, Greece, Germany, Holland and in 1968 he was awarded a Travel Fellowship to record the Welsh Community in Patagonia. His first exhibition was at Colnaghi’s in London in 1948 entitled ‘Welsh Landscape Paintings’. He was also much loved by his pupils, and produced some outstanding students, among them fellow RA artist, Anthony Green.

In 1974 Williams was elected as a Royal Academician and in the same year moved back to his native Anglesey where he lived until his death in 2006. Despite his illness making life difficult, he still managed to produce nearly one hundred works a year, as well as teaching and in 1982 he was appointed an OBE, being knighted in 1999.

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