A joint exhibition to mark the centenary of the birth of Sir Kyffin Williams KBE RA 1918-2006 at Highgate Gallery, Highgate Literary and Scientific Institution (HLSI) and Highgate School Museum 14 September – 7 October 2018
Landscape and portrait painter, draughtsman, lecturer, cartoonist and raconteur, Sir Kyffin Williams KBE RA is one of the most famous figures in Welsh art. Highgate Gallery@HLSI and Highgate School Museum are co-hosting Kyffin 100: Paper to Palette Knife 14 September – 7 October 2018, the largest ever retrospective of Kyffin’s work outside Wales. We are delighted to be celebrating the centenary of his birth here in Highgate where Kyffin spent so much of his adult life.
Kyffin 100: Paper to Palette Knife explores the variety of his technique. On display at Highgate Gallery will be rarely seen drawings, watercolours and linocuts on loan from the National Library of Wales at Aberystwyth, which form part of their acclaimed exhibition Kyffin 100: Behind the Frame (#kyffin100). There are “plein air” sketches, watercolours, oils of Hampstead Heath, St Joseph’s and Athlone House, portraits of local people as well as Welsh scenes, sketches from his European travels and studies from his expedition to paint the Welsh community in Patagonia. Highgate School Museum will be showing works kindly loaned by private individuals and items borrowed from the National Library of Wales and Oriel Ynys Môn alongside its own collection: portraits, including a charming picture of his Bisham Gardens landlady, Miss Josling, and scenes from Wales and abroad, many dating from Kyffin’s London years.
Kyffin was art master at Highgate School for nearly thirty years and he also taught evening classes at the HLSI in the very hall displaying this exhibition. Local artist and fellow Slade School of Art pupil, Rosa Branson MBE, remembers his frequent and encouraging visits to her studio and their shared passion for work: hours and hours each day committed to perfecting their techniques. Ex-Highgate School pupil Stephen Benson writes,“ I can picture him coming into the art school with that characteristic loping stride more suited to the Welsh hills than north London. He wore a long khaki checked sports jacket with huge drooping pockets, more accustomed I suspect to holding dead birds and other game… We didn’t appreciate how lucky we were to sit at the feet of such a distinguished artist…. At the end of term we were allowed to put aside our clumsy still lives and listen to him recite with an exaggerated Welsh accent the famous lines from Under Milk Wood.”
Kyffin studied at the Slade School of Art (temporarily housed in the Ashmolean/Ruskin School of Art in Oxford during the war) between 1941 and 1944. He was senior art master at Highgate School from 1944 to 1973. In 1968 he gained a Churchill Fellowship to study and paint the Welsh community in Patagonia, South America.
His first solo exhibition in 1948 was at the prestigious London based Colnaghi Gallery. Further exhibitions followed in galleries in England and Wales. From 1969 to 1976 and again from 1992 he was president of the Royal Cambrian Academy. In 1974 he became a Royal Academician. He was awarded an Honorary Fellowship of University College Swansea in 1989, University College Bangor in 1991 and University College of Wales in Aberystwyth in 1992. A dedicated Kyffin Williams Gallery was opened at Oriel Ynys Môn in his native Llangefni in 2008. He received an OBE in1982 for his contribution to the arts and was knighted in 1999. He published two autobiographies Across the Straits (1973) and A Wider Sky (1991). A lifetime of paintings was bequeathed to the National Library of Wales, Aberystwyth, on his death in 2006.
Event: Friday 14th Sept 6-8.30pm: Reception to celebrate the opening of Kyffin 100: Paper to Palette Knife at Highgate Gallery, HLSI, 11, South Grove N6 6BS
Event: Friday 21st Sept 8pm: Lecture (doors open 7.30pm). Rian Evans, Guardian critic and author of Kyffin Williams: The Light and the Dark (2018) discusses the artist’s work. To book a place contact firstname.lastname@example.org or HLSI office 02083403340 or £5 entry on the door. Refreshments served.