The Art of the City: Cardiff

Phaeton

Over the past 15 years Cardiff has seen a lot of changes. The dawn of devolution has brought with it the benefits of financial investment which has seen Wales’ capital city revamped and developed into a vibrant city full of life and culture. Cardiff bay has been transformed into a cosmopolitan wharf filled with restaurants, bars, shops and impressive vistas. The millennium arts centre has a lot going for it too. The building itself utilises the very best in modern architecture without clashing with the rest of the areas more historic structures and it also provides a wealth of cultural entertainment that caters for all ages and backgrounds. The city centre is clean and welcoming and provides a multitude of choice for locals and visitors alike. In short, Cardiff is the place to be if you’re looking for a great day out or somewhere interesting to visit.

Wales has a strong tradition of artistic culture and a proud history of creativity that has produced such legendary names as Dylan Thomas, Augustus and Gwen John,  Richard Burton and Bryn Terfel to name but a few.

The National Museum of Wales, Cardiff

Last week I visited the National Museum of Wales located next to the town hall in the city’s Cathays Park area. The photography policy was more strict than I expected but the friendly staff were more than happy to help and allowed me to roam about freely with my camera, capturing any of the works that were not labelled ‘No Photographs’ due to copyright.

The Museum is located on the ground floor. It is very impressive and well worth a visit. The first floor houses various gallery rooms that are packed with a wide range of paintings, sculptures and ceramics. The space is used very well and one could spend an entire day walking around these rooms.

'Perseus' by Frederick William Pomeroy 1898

‘Perseus’ by Frederick William Pomeroy 1898

Climbing the staircase to the first floor, one is immediately greeted by several amazing sculptures, the first of which is a life size version of the Greek god Perseus. Finished in 1848 by the artist Frederick William Pomeroy, the perfect form of this heroic figure holds the head of Medusa aloft and represents the subduing and resisting of evil.

'The Spirit of the Crusaders' by Gertrude M Williams 1925

‘The Spirit of the Crusaders’ by Gertrude M Williams 1925

As I turn to my right I see a more contemporary but equally impressive sculpture entitled ‘The Spirit of the Crusaders’ which is dated 1925 and is crafted by Gertrude M Williams. As you walk around the edge of the balconies which overlook the reception hall with its gift shop and café, there are various grand paintings that adorn the walls such as this fantastic oil on canvas by Welsh artist Lucy Kemp entitled ‘Big Guns to the Front’ (1918) which celebrates the role of horses during the great war.

'Big Guns to the Front' by Lucy Kemp, a Welsh born artist who chronicled the importance and use of horses during the first world war. 1918

‘Big Guns to the Front’ by Lucy Kemp, a Welsh born artist who chronicled the importance and use of horses during the first world war. 1918

The 'Visions of Mughal India Exibition' runs until November 3rd

The ‘Visions of Mughal India Exibition’ runs until November 3rd

The south side of the building is split into several rooms. One is currently exhibiting the work of Howard Hodgkin but does not allow photography. ‘Visions of Mughal India’ is showing here until November 3rd, on tour from the Ashmolean Museum at the University of Oxford.

A historical collection of Welsh ceramics and pottery.

A historical collection of Welsh ceramics and pottery.

There is also a collection of Welsh pottery and ceramics which boasts a wide range of varying styles, each with an interesting historical background.

The opposite side of the first floor contains a maze of rooms which house works of art from such giants as Auguste Rodin and L S Lowry alongside other more obscure domestic artists such as John Brett and Harold Knight.

One of Auguste Rodin's famous sculptures of 'The Kiss' Apparently this version is second only to one on display in the Louvre in Paris.

One of Auguste Rodin’s famous sculptures of ‘The Kiss’. Apparently this version is second only to one on display in the Louvre in Paris.

The gallery displays works of historic art, impressionism, modern and contemporary art, international and domestic artists alongside the works of others that have been inspired by this beautiful country. Unfortunately, most of the modern and contemporary art is still within copyright and therefore cannot be photographed. But I assure you, some of these works are not to be missed and well worth a visit to be witnessed and enjoyed by the naked eye. I have managed to capture a lot of other works that I will share with you in the following photographs, to give you a small taste of what is on offer here.

The gallery has lots of impressive sculptures such as these two works by John Gibson.

The wonderfully detailed 'Aurora - Goddess of the Dawn' looms overhead.

The wonderfully detailed ‘Aurora – Goddess of the Dawn’ looms overhead. Circa 1842

Phaeton rides his chariot to the sun. Sculpted by John Gibson circa 1848.

Phaeton rides his chariot to the sun. Sculpted by John Gibson circa 1848.

The classical sculptures are also complimented by various contemporary pieces such as this extraordinary ceramic by Richard Deacon.

A surrealist ceramic by Richard Deacon entitled 'Empirical Jungle' from 2003

A surrealist ceramic by Richard Deacon entitled ‘Empirical Jungle’ from 2003

The painitings on display span centuries and varying aesthetic styles. Here are a collection of my favourites.

Riding in Water by Peter Doig. Oil on canvas, 2012.

Riding in Water by Peter Doig. Oil on canvas, 2012.

This oil on canvas by Giuseppe Cesari entitled 'The Agony in the Garden' is dated 1590 and chronicles Christ's arrest in the Garden of Gethsemane.

This oil on canvas by Giuseppe Cesari entitled ‘The Agony in the Garden’ and is dated 1590. It chronicles Christ’s arrest in the Garden of Gethsemane.

'A Quarrel' by the Le Nain brothers. This Dutch influenced painting portrays a group of soldiers quarrelling over a card game.

‘A Quarrel’ by the Le Nain brothers. This Dutch influenced painting portrays a group of soldiers quarrelling over a card game.

This is one of my favourite paintings in the gallery. 'The Parting' by James Tissot (1872) shows the artists mastery of composition and natural talent for realism and detail.

This is one of my favourite paintings in the gallery. ‘The Parting’ by James Tissot (1872) shows the artists mastery of composition and natural talent for realism and detail.

'The Stronghold of the Seison and the Camp of Kittywake' by John Brett. 1879.

‘The Stronghold of the Seison and the Camp of Kittywake’ by John Brett. 1879. The structure is Caernarfon Castle in North Wales.

Another impressive landscape by Welsh painter John Brett captures 'Forest Cove, Cardigan Bay'. 1883

Another impressive landscape by Welsh painter John Brett captures ‘Forest Cove, Cardigan Bay’. 1883.

There are also some paintings by world renound masters…

One of Claude Monet's 'Waterlilies' paintings. This one is dated 1905.

One of Claude Monet’s ‘Waterlilies’ paintings. This one is dated 1905.

Pierre August Renoir's giant portrait entitled 'La Parissiene'. Oil on canvas, 1874.

Pierre Auguste Renoir’s giant portrait entitled ‘La Parissiene’. Oil on canvas, 1874.

'Sunlight at Vernon' by Fauvist painter Pierre Bonnard.  Oil on canvas, 1920.

‘Sunlight at Vernon’ by Fauvist painter Pierre Bonnard. Oil on canvas, 1920.

There is even an oil on canvas by my favourite painter of them all; Vincent Van Gogh. This small but wonderful canvas was painted in 1890 and was one of his his last.

'Rain, Auvers' by the master, Vincent Van Gogh. 1890.

‘Rain, Auvers’ by the master, Vincent Van Gogh. 1890.

There is much more to see in The National Museum and I highly recommend a visit. It is free to enter and is conveniently located in central Cardiff. The city also has several other smaller galleries which are packed with exciting artwork from Wales and the rest of the world. The Chapter Arts Centre is located in Canton, just a short bus ride from the city centre.

Overall, Cardiff is a city bustling with art and culture. It is my opinion that any art-lover will discover lots of surprising things to see in this underrated city.

Words and photographs by Greg Fisher.

3 thoughts on “The Art of the City: Cardiff

  1. Pingback: The Art of the City: Cardiff (Reblog) | Dave Roberts Film

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s