Press Releases

Industry to Impressionism: what two Sisters did for Wales

14 July 2007 - 6 January 2008

To mark Amgueddfa Cymru - National Museum Wales's centenary celebrations, a major exhibition exploring the remarkable lives of the sisters Gwendoline (1882-1951) and Margaret Davies (1884-1963) goes on show at National Museum Cardiff.

Gwendoline and Margaret Davies were two extraordinary women who amassed one of the most stunning British art collections of the 20th century, and were the greatest benefactors of the Museum's first hundred years.

The sisters were the granddaughters of the famous industrialist David Davies of Llandinam (1818–1890), a self-made man whose great fortune was derived from the coal industry. The Davies family were prominent and high-principled Welsh Nonconformists; the sisters never married and remained teetotallers and strict sabbatarians throughout their lives. Gwendoline and Margaret were major benefactors of charities and cultural institution in Wales and in 1920 bought Gregynog Hall in Montgomeryshire, which became a centre of artistic creativity and a base for the exploration of social issues.

Exciting new information suggests that the Davies sisters had an unusually sophisticated appreciation of art history. The exhibition at National Museum Cardiff will look at the formation of their collection and will place Gwendoline and Margaret into a wider context, investigating many aspects of their lives and varied interests.

On display will be Renoir’s famous 'Blue Lady' - La Parisienne - Monet’s Rouen Cathedral, three of his Venetian views, Rodin’s The Kiss and other works by Manet and Pisarro. The collection also includes other iconic works such as three of Monet’s waterlilies paintings, Van Gogh’s Rain - Auvers and works by Millet, Daumier and Carrière. There are also Old Masters and modern British paintings the sisters acquired.

Oliver Fairclough, Keeper of Art at Amgueddfa Cymru and the exhibition's curator, said: “The wonderful art collection bequeathed to the National Museum by Gwendoline and Margaret Davies is usually seen in isolation. The exhibition relocates the collection at the heart of the sisters’ wider cultural philanthropy. It demonstrates how the art provided an inspirational backdrop for the discussion of social and economic problems at Gregynog between the two World Wars.”

A lavishly illustrated book, Things of Beauty, published by National Museum Wales Books (£14.99) accompanies the exhibition and includes photographs from the Davies family album and new research by Amgueddfa Cymru - National Museum Wales curators.

Thanks to the support of the Welsh Assembly Government, you can visit Amgueddfa Cymru – National Museum Wales museums, including National Museum Cardiff, for free.

Amgueddfa Cymru – National Museum Wales operates seven national museums across Wales. These are National Museum Cardiff, St Fagans: National History Museum, National Roman Legionary Museum, Big Pit: National Coal Museum, the National Wool Museum, the National Slate Museum and National Waterfront Museum.
Amgueddfa Cymru – National Museum Wales celebrates its centenary in 2007. For more details go to the 07 pages on our website. If you have a general enquiry about the art galleries, please phone (029) 20397951.


For more details, please contact:
Julie Richards, Press Officer, National Museum Cardiff
Direct line: (029) 2057 3185 Mobile: 07876 476695