Amgueddfa Cymru - National Museum Wales acquires rare early sketches by important Welsh artist

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Amgueddfa Cymru - National Museum Wales acquires rare early sketches by important Welsh artist
Thomas Jones (1742-1803), Welsh Landscape with Lead Mines, about 1775-76. Oil on panel. Purchased 2020 © Miles Wynn Cato Gallery – Welsh Art.

CARDIFF.- Two recently discovered, rare oil sketches by Welsh artist Thomas Jones (1742-1803) have entered Amgueddfa Cymru’s collection.

Welsh Landscape with Lead Mines, painted around 1775-6, is an important early representation of Welsh industry – a unique subject among Jones’ surviving paintings. The painting hints at the impact of the dawning industrial age on the mid-Wales landscape.

View on the Wye features a boating scene on the beautiful River Wye, once voted the ‘nation’s favourite river’, and a site of special scientific interest. For centuries the river has attracted attention from artists, writers and tourists, particularly as a focal point of the fashionable picturesque tours. This may be one of Jones’ earliest known studies of the river.

Thomas Jones is today known as a Welsh artist of international importance, but for over a century after his death he was a forgotten figure. His rediscovery as an artist dates from the early 1950s, when his lively Memoirs were published, and many of his oil sketches first appeared on the art market. Today he is recognised as one of the most innovative artists of the eighteenth century, with a deeply personal vision reflected in his oil sketches.

His reputation has been built largely on his small landscape oil sketches of Italy, particularly of buildings in Naples, painted for personal pleasure rather than for display. These paintings are remarkably fresh and vibrant, and have a unique modern appeal which sets them apart from many 18th century landscapes.

His Italian oil sketches have attracted international attention, but it was here in Wales that his love of sketching the landscape in oil took root. Jones, like his master Richard Wilson, had a deep attachment to Wales and often painted the landscape in and around his home county, Radnorshire.

Stephanie Roberts, Senior Curator of Historic Art at Amgueddfa Cymru says: “These are wonderful paintings by an artist whose personal vision was ahead of his time. Many of his early oil sketches of Wales are lost to us, after they were stored in a damp cellar when he moved to Italy. These two new discoveries are an exciting new addition to our Welsh landscapes collection, by one of Wales' best-loved historic artists.”

The two oil sketches, Welsh Landscape with Lead Mines, and View on the Wye were previously in private collections, and have only recently come to public attention. They were extensively researched by art dealer Miles Wynn Cato, and the attribution and probable dates were confirmed by Greg Smith, a pre-eminent authority on Thomas Jones and co-editor of Amgueddfa Cymru’s Thomas Jones (1742-1803): An Artist Rediscovered (2003).

They were purchased for Amgueddfa Cymru’s collection earlier this year using kindly donated to Amgueddfa Cymru as part of a legacy gift, and arrived at National Museum Cardiff just before the national lockdown. They are currently undergoing conservation treatment to prepare them for future display.

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