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The recent UK Covid Lockdown meant that I no longer saw the mountains of Eryri on a daily basis. I really did miss looking at them from Ynys Môn and assessing the likely weather for the day.


At the same time I was home working for the UK Joint Nature Conservation Committee. This included providing advice to Environment Platform Wales on their annual evidence conference. This year the theme is "Resilience in the Welsh Uplands - An Evidence Perspective" https://epwales.org.uk/environment-evidence
The wide ranging interpretation of the conference title has inspired this personal selection of art to provide an artistic perspective on resilience.

20 artworks

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Nant Ffrancon, Snowdonia
© the copyright holder. Photo credit: Williamson Art Gallery & Museum

Habitats

The Welsh Uplands support a diversity of semi-natural habitats including acid grassland, heathland, rivers and lakes, and blanket bog but broadleaved woodland is extremely restricted to gullies, rocky ledges and other shelterd places.

Nant Ffrancon, Snowdonia c.1979
Enid Chiverton (active 1975–1979)
Oil on board
H 48 x W 59 cm
Williamson Art Gallery & Museum

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Farmer Amongst the Rocks
© Llyfrgell Genedlaethol Cymru / The National Library of Wales. Photo credit: Llyfrgell Genedlaethol Cymru / The National Library of Wales

Farming

In Williams' depictions of the rocky Welsh Uplands, the solitary images of stooped farmers, with their walking sticks, are invariably accompanied by lively sheepdogs.

Farmer Amongst the Rocks 1990–2006
Kyffin Williams (1918–2006)
Oil on canvas
H 60.7 x W 91 cm
Llyfrgell Genedlaethol Cymru / The National Library of Wales

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Three Welsh Sheep
Photo credit: Amgueddfa Cymru – National Museum Wales

Sheep

It is estimated that there are more than 10 million sheep in Wales. Their grazing activity has had a major impact on upland environments and the nature of the landscapes.

Three Welsh Sheep c.1835
William Shiels (1783–1857)
Oil on canvas
H 109 x W 73.5 cm
Amgueddfa Cymru – National Museum Wales

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Gylfinir / Curlew
© estate of C. F. Tunnicliffe, OBE, RA. Photo credit: Oriel Môn

Wildlife

The evocative sound of a curlew is part of the upland soundscape in Wales. However the breeding population is in decline so conservation and monitoring projects are underway.

Gylfinir / Curlew 1935–1939
Charles Frederick Tunnicliffe (1901–1979)
Pensil, inc, dyfrlliw a gouache ar bapur / pencil, ink, watercolour & gouache on paper
H 47 x W 59 cm
Oriel Môn

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View from a Railway Carriage; Snowdonia from the Cob
© the artist. Photo credit: Cardiff and Vale University Health Board

Trains

Today the great little steam trains of Wales are a major tourist attraction but many were developed to facilitate the exploitation of the natural resources of Wales, such as slate.

View from a Railway Carriage; Snowdonia from the Cob
Anna Todd (b.1964)
Acrylic on board
H 109 x W 168 cm
Cardiff and Vale University Health Board

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Llanberis Pass, North Wales
© the copyright holder. Photo credit: City & County of Swansea: Glynn Vivian Art Gallery Collection

Roads

Many explorations of wild Wales require a road trip through the mountains along some historic routes and sometimes challenging driving conditions.

Llanberis Pass, North Wales
Will Evans (1888–1957)
Oil on canvas
H 61.2 x W 66 cm
Glynn Vivian Art Gallery

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Bethesda Quarry
© estate of Peter Prendergast. All rights reserved, DACS 2020. Photo credit: Tate

Slate

The exploitation of the natural resources of the Welsh Uplands has created landscapes of international social and cultural importance. Bethesda or Penrhyn Quarry was once the world's largest slate quarry.

Bethesda Quarry 1980–81
Peter Prendergast (1946–2007)
Oil on board
H 167.1 x W 192.8 cm
Tate

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Parys Mountain
© the artist. Photo credit: Llyfrgell Genedlaethol Cymru / The National Library of Wales

Metal

Metals have been mined in the mountains of Wales since the Roman invasion and probably even before then. This activity has produced colourful lunar landscapes and seriously polluted rivers, turning them red, acid and devoid of life.

Parys Mountain 1970 (?)
Karel Lek (1929–2020)
Oil on canvas
H 50 x W 75.6 cm
Llyfrgell Genedlaethol Cymru / The National Library of Wales

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Aberfan
© the artist's estate. Photo credit: National Coal Mining Museum for England

Women

This painting was one of a series made by Dorothie Field in response to the Aberfan disaster that took place on 21 October 1966. The catastrophic collapse of a colliery spoil tip down the mountain side above the village killed 116 children and 28 adults. The mothers of those children set up their own support group which still meets today.

Aberfan
Dorothie Field (1915–1994)
Oil on board
H 63 x W 106 cm
National Coal Mining Museum for England

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Self Portrait on Garnedd Dafydd
© the artist's estate. Photo credit: Amgueddfa Cymru – National Museum Wales

Artistic Inspiration

"....her whole small being was lit with pure delight in the beauty and mystery of those aspects of the created world she loved, most especially the mountains of Eryri, the dramatic landscape of Snowdonia..."

Self Portrait on Garnedd Dafydd 1938
Brenda Chamberlain (1912–1971)
Oil on canvas
H 30.4 x W 30.4 cm
Amgueddfa Cymru – National Museum Wales

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The Red Dress
Photo credit: Amgueddfa Cymru – National Museum Wales

Peace

Christopher Williams, a pacifist, witnessed the trenches of World War 1 and produced paintings which captured the horror and sacrifice. He also clearly found peace in his representation of women in the landscape and nature.

The Red Dress 1917
Christopher Williams (1873–1934)
Oil on millboard
H 53.2 x W 63.2 cm
Amgueddfa Cymru – National Museum Wales

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Arenig
Photo credit: Amgueddfa Cymru – National Museum Wales

Colour

Although seriously ill with tuberculosis James Dickinson Innes walked the Welsh uplands producing intensely colourful and lyrical landscapes. He considered the Mynydd Arenig his "sacred mountain".

Arenig c.1911–1912
James Dickson Innes (1887–1914)
Oil on panel
H 23 x W 33 cm
Amgueddfa Cymru – National Museum Wales

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Coal and Snow, First Impressions of a Welsh Valley: Abertillery
© the artist's estate. Photo credit: Herbert Art Gallery & Museum

Communities

Community spirit and resilience are key characteristics of the South Wales valleys communities who for generations have worked hard in challenging industrial landscapes and social conditions.

Coal and Snow, First Impressions of a Welsh Valley: Abertillery 1960s–1980s
Barbara Mary Russon (1930–2007)
Oil on canvas
H 117.9 x W 50.5 cm
Herbert Art Gallery & Museum

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Cofeb Tryweryn
© the artist's estate. Photo credit: Llyfrgell Genedlaethol Cymru / The National Library of Wales

Identity

Commissioned to commemorate the flooding of the Tryweryn valley and the loss of the upland Welsh speaking village of Capel Celyn. The faces embedded in the feathers combine mixed emotions of anger, fear and protest, with the hopeful shape of the rising water bird.

Cofeb Tryweryn c.1980
John Meirion Morris (1936–2020)
Bronze & slate
H 79 x W 51 x D 23 cm
Llyfrgell Genedlaethol Cymru / The National Library of Wales

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In the Valley No. 5
© the artist's estate. Photo credit: University of South Wales Art Collection Museum

Environment

The development of abstract art in Wales was concurrent with a growing awareness of environmental issues.

In the Valley No. 5 c.1962–1963
Ernest Zobole (1927–1999)
Oil on hardboard
H 183 x W 122 cm
University of South Wales Art Collection Museum

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Slate Quarry near Llangollen, Wales
© the copyright holder. Photo credit: Grosvenor Museum

Geodiversity

Geology is part of our abiotic natural world and conserving its diversity is a core part of the nature conservation mission in Wales and the UK. Quarries often illustrate and provide access to scientifically important stratigraphic sequences of rock.

Slate Quarry near Llangollen, Wales 1998
John Kavanagh (1943–1998)
Oil on board
H 54.5 x W 38 cm
Grosvenor Museum

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The Trout
© the copyright holder. Photo credit: Llyfrgell Genedlaethol Cymru / The National Library of Wales

Fish

Salmon and trout are the iconic fish of Welsh river ecosystems, spawning in headwater streams. Egg hatching is temperature dependent making them vulnerable to climate change.

The Trout 1970
Delia Portsmouth (b.c.1916)
Oil on board
H 23.7 x W 39.4 cm
Llyfrgell Genedlaethol Cymru / The National Library of Wales

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Llyn Idwal, Snowdonia
Photo credit: University of Dundee Fine Art Collections

Lakes

Many of the lakes of Wales were impacted by the effects of "Acid Rain" in the 1970-80s, including the loss of native trout populations. It has been suggested that base rich rocks in the catchment of Llyn Idwal protected it from acidification. More recently there has been positive evidence of recovery at several lakes following reductions in air pollution.

Llyn Idwal, Snowdonia 1871
Benjamin Williams Leader (1831–1923)
Oil on panel
H 38 x W 59 cm
University of Dundee Fine Art Collections

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Afon Honddu Fach
© trustees of the David Jones estate / Bridgeman Images. Photo credit: Royal Watercolour Society

Waterfalls

Nothing stops a river even if it must tumble and fall.

Afon Honddu Fach 1926
David Jones (1895–1974)
Watercolour on paper
H 58 x W 41 cm
Royal Watercolour Society

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Evan Roberts (1909–1991)
© Oriel Ynys Môn. Photo credit: Oriel Môn

Nature Conservation

Blind in old age Evan Roberts (quarryman, botanist, Warden of Cwm Idwal) looks upwards in appreciation of the plants and habitats he cared for in the Welsh Uplands.

Evan Roberts (1909–1991) 1990
Kyffin Williams (1918–2006)
Olew ar gynfas / oil on canvas
H 72 x W 72 cm
Oriel Môn