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Today, 24 March 2023, pupils of Ysgol Gynradd Llanbedr Gwynedd, had the opportunity to view the famous Salem painting by Sydney Curnow Vosper in the place that inspired the painting. 

As part of the Masterpieces in Schools event – one of the outreach projects by the National Library of Wales – the painting was exhibited at Ysgol Gynradd Llanbedr, the school closest to the site of the chapel that appears in the picture.

As well as unveiling the painting at the school’s morning service so that the entire school had the opportunity to see it, year 5 and 6 puplis participated in workshops. 

The children looked in detail at the techniques used to create the picture in a watercolour painting workshop based on the masterpiece. In a second workshop they looked at the Welsh costume, focusing on the paisley pattern of Siân Owen’s shawl. 

Tesni Edwards, Year 5&6 Teacher at Ysgol Llanbedr said:

“Travel costs have increased substantially over the last two years, so it can be challenging for schools to take pupils to galleries, museums and libraries all over Wales. We are very grateful for this opportunity which will enable Ysgol Llanbedr pupils to come face to face with one of Wales’s most iconic paintings, and learn more about the collections of our most important institutions.”

Rhodri Morgan, Head of Education Services at the National Library of Wales said: 

“It’s our privilege to use the National Library’s collections to offer unique and exciting experiences to the school pupils of Wales. Offering a workshop on the original painting by Sydney Curnow Vosper to the children of Llanbedr, a stones throw away from the chapel that Siân Owen attended over a century ago, enriches their understanding of their locality, as they continue to celebrate the history of their surroundings.”

Later in the year the Library will invite all the pupils of Ysgol Llanbedr to Aberystwyth so that they can see where the painting is kept safely, and to learn more about the other collections at the National Library of Wales. 

The Masterpieces in Schools project is part of the Library’s strategy to reach out to communities across Wales and support participation in cultural, educational and artistic activities for children and young people. 

These sessions will facilitate the school to align with the guidelines of the Curriculum for Wales guidelines, while supporting the Learning and Experience Areas of the Humanities, and the Expressive Arts, as well as presenting material that is relevant to the pupils’ cynefin. 

** Mae'r datganiad yma hefyd ar gael yn y Gymraeg**

Further information
Rhodri ap Dyfrig or 01970 632 844 / 07855 362206

Notes for editors

About NLW Education Service
The National Library of Wales Education Service was established in 2002. Its main work is to:

  • Deliver a programme of educational activities of a high standard to promote The National Library of Wales and the national collection through the school curriculum.
  • Increase awareness among children and young people of the history, culture and heritage of Wales.
  • Facilitate access to information for learners and educators and assist them in making the most of our collections by interpreting information in the national collection.
  • Increase the Library’s presence, and awareness of the institution and its work, in various parts of Wales.
  • Assist the National Library of Wales in delivering the strategic aims set out in A Library for Wales and the World, the National Library of Wales strategic plan for 2021-2026.
  • Produce high quality digital resources to assist with the delivery of the school curriculum in Wales, and publish these on Hwb.
  • Manage various projects that provide access to the collections to children, young people and adults.
  • Support the Welsh Government social inclusion and reducing inequality agendas by working in disadvantaged.

Since 2007 the Education service at the National Library of Wales has been presenting the Library's collections in areas across Wales as part of its outreach programme. These projects are planned and delivered in partnership with local authorities, schools and other organisations, and tailored to meet the needs of the users, as well as meet the requirements of the curriculum in terms of content and skills.

About Masterpieces in Schools

In 2013 Art UK launched Masterpieces in Schools with the aim of bringing children face-to-face with great works of art inside their classroom, breaking down traditional barriers to art. A range of masterpieces were loaned to schools by renowned artists including L. S. Lowry, Monet and Turner.

Following its success, Art UK announced the return of Masterpieces in Schools in 2018, as part of the sculpture project - the largest ever sculpture documentation project undertaken in the UK to date. Once again, artworks will come out of artist studios and the nation’s museums and galleries, and into schools, as sculptures are loaned for the day. The initiative also facilitates relationships between schools and collections in the area.

The Masterpieces in Schools programme is being made possible thanks to generous grants from the Stavros Niarchos Foundation and the National Lottery Heritage Fund.

About Salem by Sydney Curnow Vosper

The watercolour painting depicts a scene from a service in Salem Chapel, Cefncymerau, Llanbedr near Harlech, with the Siân Owen in her traditional Welsh dress holding a hymn book in the centre of the picture. The watercolour artist, Sydney Curnow Vosper (1866-1942) was inspired to create works based on Breton and Welsh culture during his lifetime, but without doubt Salem is his most well-known painting by today.

Vosper created two versions of Salem during his lifetime; the first version, painted in 1908, was purchased by William Hesketh Lever, and was used to promote the sales of his ‘Sunlight Soap’. Because of this the image became iconic all over Britain. But Salem became a symbol of Welsh life and the nonconformist tradition in Wales and became ever-more well known due to the fact that some were able to see an image of the devil in the folds of the shawl worn by the painting’s central character. The second version, which only differs slightly from the original, was created in 1909 for Frank Treharne James, a solicitor from Merthyr, and brother-in-law to the artist. It was purchased by the National Library in 2021.