Information on the Collections

The National Museum of Wales was founded in 1907, but it contains the art collection of the former Cardiff Museum of Natural History, Arts and Antiquities, begun in 1882. The first home for the new national art collection was in eleven police cells and a corridor in the Cardiff Law Courts. It was transferred to the present building in the 1920s.

One of the 15 galleries
One of the 15 galleries

Located in Cardiff's civic centre, National Museum Cardiff has 15 art galleries that tell the story of art in Wales and Europe over the last 500 years. Selections from our growing collection of modern and contemporary art, formed with the generous support of the Derek Williams Trust, are shown in changing displays.

Other galleries show a programme of exhibitions illuminating, reinforcing and supplementing the permanent collection. Most of these temporary exhibitions are generated from our own collection but we also host touring exhibitions. Other facilities include the Prints and Drawings Study Room, where visitors can arrange to see a selection of our 28,000 works on paper. The Art Department also has three conservation studios and a framing workshop to care for the collection and prepare works for display.

For centuries Wales has been an inspiration to artists of all kinds - from landscape painters to contemporary craftspeople. Welsh people have also formed notable art collections, some of which are now housed at National Museum Cardiff. Sir Watkin Williams-Wynn(1749-1789) commissioned paintings, furniture and silver from the leading artists and designers of his day. Our most celebrated benefactors were the sisters Gwendoline and Margaret Davies who gave their magnificent art collections, exceptionally rich in French paintings and sculpture by Millet, Rodin, Monet and Cézanne. Other gifts include the extensive European porcelain collection of Wilfred Seymour De Winton and the unrivalled Welsh ceramics bequeathed by Ernest Morton Nance.

Major and significant collections

Derek Williams

Derek Mathias Tudor Williams F.R.I.C.S. (1929-1984) has been the greatest benefactor to Amgueddfa Cymru – National Museum Wales since Gwendoline and Margaret Davies.

The collection contains a large number of works by the British neo-romantics, including Ceri Richards, John Piper, David Jones and Keith Vaughan. This element is supported by the work of other artists of this period such as Lucian Freud, Josef Herman, Ivon Hitchens, Graham Sutherland, Ben Nicholson and Henry Moore.

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The Williams-Wynn collection

The Williams-Wynn family of Wynnstay in Denbighshire emerged as one of Wales's wealthiest in the early 18th century, a status they were to retain for over two hundred years.

Several members of the family had an interest in the arts, and Sir Watkin Williams-Wynn (1749-1789), 4th baronet, was perhaps the greatest patron of the arts Wales has ever produced. Much of his collection is now housed at Amgueddfa Cymru.

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Wilfred De Winton

Wilfred De Winton (1856-1929), from a prosperous Breconshire banking family, was one of the major benefactors of the National Museum of Wales. In 1917 and 1929 he gave the Museum over 2,000 pieces of 18th- and early 19th-century continental porcelain. This is one of the most important such collections in any British museum.

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Morton Nance

The collection consists of some fifteen hundred pieces which, in 1952, doubled the Museum's collection of Welsh porcelain and trebled the items of Welsh pottery. The collection contains many fine items of porcelain manufactured in Swansea and many pieces from the short-lived period of porcelain manufacture at Nantgarw.

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The Davies Sisters collection

Gwendoline Davies (1882-1951) and Margaret Davies (1884-1963), two sisters from mid-Wales, amassed one of the great British art collections of the 20th century. Together, they bequeathed 260 works to the National Museum of Wales in 1951 and 1963, completely transforming its art collection in character, quality and range.

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