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Pre-Raphaelite Welsh landscape acquired by Amgueddfa Cymru - National Museum Wales

Amgueddfa Cymru – National Museum Wales has bought a significant Pre-Raphaelite painting of a north Wales landscape, thanks to support from the Art Fund and private donors. Sandbanks on the Mawddach, Barmouth (1863-4) by John Ingle Lee  is an impressive example of a Welsh landscape during the Victorian period.

The oil painting is a dramatic view of the Mawddach Estuary, an area to the south of Snowdonia National Park in north-west Wales. Lee’s painting looks eastwards and inland from a viewpoint above Barmouth known as the ‘Panorama View’.

Surviving works by John Ingle Lee (1839-1882) are very rare, yet his art is increasingly recognised and sought after and his paintings are ambitious examples of a young Liverpool artist embracing Pre-Raphaelitism in its prime.

Born in Liverpool in 1839, John was the fifth of seven children. The family business eventually grew to become George Henry Lee’s, a renowned Liverpool department store run by John’s two eldest brothers. Lee first exhibited at the Liverpool Academy in 1859, and from 1863 exhibited regularly at the Royal Academy in London. Although perhaps too young to participate in the important Pre-Raphaelite exhibitions of 1857, ambitious works such as the Walker Art Gallery’s Sweethearts and Wives, probably his best-known painting, were unmistakably aligned with Pre-Raphaelite techniques and ideology.

The Panorama View, within a mile of Barmouth, has been called ‘one of the grandest views in Wales’. The whole of the estuary can be seen at one glance. The painting captures the full impact of the view and the vastness of the expanse ahead. Swirling rainclouds hide Cadair Idris from view and create opalescent light effects on the waters of the estuary, where tide and river wash over an ever-changing bed of mudflats and sandbanks.

Andrew Renton, Keeper of Art, Amgueddfa Cymru – National Museum Wales said:

“We’re hugely grateful to the Art Fund and private donors whose generous support has made this acquisition possible.

“The acquisition is an important addition to Amgueddfa Cymru's outstanding collection of Welsh landscape art. It depicts an iconic vista which is significant in the history of Welsh art and literary culture, as well as making an imposing statement about the role of Wales in Victorian art and Pre-Raphaelitism.

“We have extensive collections of eighteenth- and twentieth-century views of north Wales, but Victorian landscapes are underrepresented. It was a crucial period of development in that genre. In the mid-nineteenth century, with increasing accessibility to remote areas by train or road, Lee was one of a growing number of artist tourists leaving industrial heartlands such as Liverpool, Manchester and Birmingham for the ‘unspoilt’ wilderness of north-west Wales.

“Many were drawn to the mountains of Snowdonia and Lee followed in the footsteps of numerous great British landscape artists and writers. In going to the Mawddach Estuary, Lee followed in the footsteps of Richard Wilson, John Varley and John Sell Cotman.

"Sandbanks on the Mawddach, Barmouth shows the continuation of that legacy at the dawn of the industrial age.”

Stephen Deuchar, Art Fund director, said: “This painting’s subject matter and history make it a very appropriate acquisition for Amgueddfa Cymru - National Museum Wales., and we’re pleased to have been of help. To see it alongside the Museum’s other works evoking the striking beauty of the Welsh landscape will be a delight”

The oil on canvas is now on display in the art galleries at National Museum Cardiff, where you can see other important examples of Pre-Raphaelite art, as well as other landscape painters of the time.

Amgueddfa Cymru – National Museum Wales operates seven national museums in Wales. These are National Museum Cardiff, St Fagans National History Museum, the National Roman Legion Museum, Big Pit National Coal Museum, the National Wool Museum, the National Slate Museum and the National Waterfront Museum. Entry to each museum is free thanks to the support of the Welsh Government.




For further information, please contact Lleucu Cooke on (029) 2057 3175 or