New exhibition sheds new light on life of forgotten Welsh Post-Impressionist artist J.D. Innes
During his brief and tragic life, the Welsh artist James Dickson Innes (1887-1914) painted a unique vision of the Welsh landscape in an intensely colourful Post-Impressionist style. Marking the centenary of the his death, a new exhibition Landscapes by J.D. Innes: Beauty Most Wild at National Museum Cardiff, from 12 April to 20 July 2014, sheds new light on the work of this unjustly neglected artist. Generously supported by the Brecknock Art Trust, this is the first exhibition of Innes’s work in twenty-seven years.
James Dickson Innes was born in Llanelli on 27 February 1887. Although he lived only to the age of 27, his profound engagement with the mountains and his visionary sense of colour left a unique legacy in British landscape art.
Educated first at Christ College Brecon, Innes began classes at Carmarthen Art School at the age of seventeen. He then attended the Slade School of Fine Art, London, from 1906 to 1908. Innes made several painting trips abroad, returning most often to Collioure, in the south of France, where the famous Fauve artist Henri Matisse had painted in 1905. It was these trips which eventually unlocked Innes’s unique sense of colour. He also spent some time living in Paris from 1909 to 1910, at the centre of the European avant-garde. There he fell in love with the tempestuous Bohemian beauty Euphemia Lamb, described as ‘the lady of his dreams’ by their mutual friend Augustus John.
Innes, however, is best known for his paintings of his native Wales, in particular the mountain Arenig Fawr, which he painted repeatedly. He first came across the Arenig area, to the north-west of Bala while touring north Wales in 1910. Entranced, he returned there a number of times, joined by his friend the Welsh artist Augustus John. John gave a romanticised account of Innes wandering the moors ‘destitute and forlorn’ and being taken in by the landlord of the ‘lonely inn of Rhyd-y-fen.’
Under John’s influence, Innes began to work in oil on small wooden panels, using increasingly brilliant colours and decorative designs. Working defiantly against his declining health, he painted obsessively, inspired by the ever-changing light and weather. The paintings became full of emotion and meaning. John described Arenig as Innes’s ‘sacred mountain’
The time spent there in 1911 and 1912 was the most productive of his life’s work. Yet his burgeoning career was tragically cut short by tuberculosis in 1914.
Anne Pritchard, Curator of Historic Art, Amgueddfa Cymru – National Museum Wales, said, “Innes’s unique visions of otherworldly mountains under boundless skies gave British landscape painting a new place among European Post-Impressionist art but this artist has been largely neglected over the years. Marking a hundred years since his death, the aim of the exhibition this year is to shed new light on his work and I hope that visitors will appreciate and enjoy the wonderfully colourful and moving landscapes of this Welsh painter.
“The exhibition has been generously supported by Brecknock Art Trust, with research carried out by Charlotte Topsfield.”
Please see the ‘What’s On’ pages of the museum’s website for details of associated events, including lunchtime talks and a one-day field trip around the Arenig area and the viewpoints that inspired Innes’s paintings. (www.museumwales.ac.uk/whatson) .
Amgueddfa Cymru operates seven national museums across Wales. These are National Museum Cardiff, St Fagans: National History Museum, National Roman Legion Museum, Caerleon, Big Pit: National Coal Museum, Blaenafon, National Wool Museum, Dre-fach Felindre, National Slate Museum, Llanberis and the National Waterfront Museum, Swansea.
Admission to all Amgueddfa Cymru – National Museum sites is free, thanks to the support of the Welsh Government.
For further information, images or interview opportunities, please contact Lleucu Cooke, Communications Officer on (029) 2057 3175 or email firstname.lastname@example.org
Notes to Editors:
National Museum Cardiff’s exhibition and activity programme has been supported by players of the People’s Postcode Lottery.
Lund Humphries has published a lavishly illustrated new book, James Dickson Innes, 1887-1914 by John Hoole and Margaret Simons (£45; 978-1-84822-139-0). The book tells the story of Innes’s life, pieced together from contemporary accounts by friends and associates, and analyses closely the development of the artist’s oeuvre. It also includes a complete catalogue of all Innes’s known works, the first ever to be compiled. This definitive reference work can be purchased from the NMW’s bookshop or online from the publisher’s website (www.lundhumphries.com).’
Martin Tinney Gallery in Cardiff is also celebrating the centenary with an exhibition of specially commissioned work by Wales’ leading contemporary landscape painters, inspired by Arenig Fawr and the surrounding area. In addition to paintings by Innes, the Arenig exhibition features work by Keith Bowen, Karina Rosanne Barrett, Martin Collins, Clive Hicks-Jenkins, Darren Hughes, Mary Lloyd Jones, Gareth Parry, Iwan Gwyn Parry, Gwilym Prichard, Wilf Roberts, William Selwyn, Sarah Thwaites, Catrin Williams and David Woodford. 9 April – 3 May 2014.