THE status of Sir Kyffin Williams (b.1918) as Wales’s most famous living artist and one of the Principality’s principal artistic exports, was once again confirmed when this oil on canvas, right, Pentraeth, Anglesey took £10,000 at Christie’s South Kensington.
Even when on the odd occasion estimates are pitched just a little too high and his pictures fail at auction, they do not seem to suffer in the way other “seen” works do at subsequent sales.
Such was evident in the case of the Kyffin Williams work shown lower right. Back in September 2002, Bonhams enjoyed huge success at their Welsh sale held in Tredegar House and Park in Newport, Wales, but among the high prices taken for his works, there was one noticeable failure, the work shown here, Gorsedd y Cwmwi – A Patagonian Landscape.
It was estimated at £10,000-12,000, but its unusual palette of rich blues was deemed by the auctioneers as “just a bit too offbeat for Williams buyers”.
However, the picture’s private Welsh vendor was not about to give up and on March 19 the striking image turned up again, this time at Byrne’s (15% buyer’s premium) in Chester.
Here it attracted lots of interest from private buyers and the “offbeat” colour and Patagonian subject matter, which may have held it back before, were now major selling points. “We got lots of publicity for the picture in North Wales,” said Byrne’s Jo Boucher.
“And it really appealed to people with relatives in Welsh Patagonia. To them it had an added personal impact.” Welsh Patagonia is the geographical/historical oddity of the Chubbut Valley in the foothills of the Andes, which in 1865 was settled by a group of Welsh settlers whose descendants speak Welsh as well as Spanish to this day.
Gorsedd y Cwmwi is the area’s highest mountain and in 1968 Kyffin Williams gained a Winston Churchill Fellowship to travel there in order to study that section of the wider Welsh community.
This time round the 2ft 11in by 4ft (90cm x 1.23m) oil on canvas, which was initialled and inscribed to the verso, was pitched slightly lower at £8000-12,000, and after a fierce bidding battle it fell to a Manchester buyer, underbid by a Welsh private collector, at £9200.