Artists

David Bell (1915-1959)

David Bell, artist and poet, was born in London in 1915 to Mabel Winifred and Sir Idris Bell, scholar and translator. He gained his first understanding of the arts at Merchant Taylors’ School, London. Following his education at the Royal College of Art, he joined an expedition to the Sudan and Iraq (1936-1938) with the Egypt Exploration Society, working in Sesebi and Amarah. With the outbreak of the Second World War, he was employed by the Cartographical Section of the Admiralty first in England and then in Wales at The National Library, Aberystwyth.

After the war, Bell was appointed Assistant Director of the Welsh Arts Council and in 1951 became Curator of the Glynn Vivian Art Gallery in Swansea. In 1952, he collaborated with his father on the translation of the works of Dafydd ap Gwilym, and he continued translating Welsh works, like his father, throughout his later life.

Although sometimes challenging the Welsh field of arts, Bell was an enthusiastic supporter of young talent in the country, giving  significant support to living artists and buying works from contemporary artists such as Ceri Richards for the Glynn Vivian Museum.

John Kelt Edwards (1875-1934)

John Kelt Edwards was born in Blaenau Ffestiniog, North Wales in 1875. After receiving his education at a local school, Llandovery College and Beaumont, Jersey, he spent several years drawing and painting in Florence and Paris where he  received tuition from highly regarded artists. Some of his work was exhibited in the Paris Salon and in London.

On returning to Britain, he based himself in London, where he acquired a studio, and produced portraits of numerous London-Welsh including David Lloyd George, Lady Megan Lloyd George and  Sir Owen M. Edwards.  He returned to North Wales before the War, possibly because of a rejection of one of his portraits of David Lloyd George by the Royal Academy, which was of great disappointment to him.

During the First World War he produced war cartoons and later designed the banner and badge of the ‘Comrades of the Great War’ and the roll of honour of the Royal Welch Fusiliers. Other portraits of well-known Welsh literary figures completed by him include R. O. Hughes (Elfyn) and Ellis H. Evans (Hedd Wyn). He was also well-known for his book illustrations.

Mervyn Levy (1914-1996)

Mervyn Levy, artist, writer, critic and teacher, was born in Swansea in 1914. He went to school with the poet Dylan Thomas, who became a lifelong friend. Art became his driving force and in 1935, whilst a student at the Royal College of Art, he was awarded the Sir Herbert Read Prize for drawing.

After serving as Captain of the Royal Army Educational Corps during the Second World War, he held posts as art tutor at Bristol University and at the Royal West of England Academy, Bristol.

During the 1950s his teaching skills led to his own BBC television series ‘Painting for housewives’ which ran for several years. He also appeared regularly on BBC radio arts programmes and interviewed artists for the BBC Radio archives.

Over the next 30 years he produced over 25 books including A dictionary of art terms  (1963), The paintings of D. H. Lawrence (1964) and Whistler lithographs (1975). He became a great authority on the English artist, L. S. Lowry (1887-1976), producing many publications, as well as becoming a friend.

Daniel Maclise (bap. 1806, d.1870)

Maclise was born in Cork, Ireland. He received a classical education there and from an early age displayed a strong interest in drawing. In 1822, following a short period working as a bank clerk, he left to study at the Cork Institute of Arts, where he began to draw from the newly arrived collection of casts made after the antique sculpture in the Vatican. Drawings by Maclise displayed in his father’s shop attracted much attention.

His first public success came when his portrait drawing of Sir Walter Scott was lithographed in Dublin and attracted much attention.  As a result, he received many commissions for portraits and opened his own studio in late 1825 in Cork, where he produced portrait drawings of officers and professional people. Here he specialized in finely pencilled portrait drawings.

To further his career, Maclise travelled to London and became a student at the Royal Academy in 1828. He received the highest awards available for his drawing, painting and draughtsmanship. The crowning of his studies was to win the prestigious gold medal for history painting for his ‘Choice of Hercules’ in December 1831. During the 1830s he developed a form of historical genre painting, influenced by the contemporary interest in the 17th century Dutch and Flemish genre painting.

The central event of Maclise’s career was his commission to paint some of the mural decorations in the Houses of Parliament. He painted two frescoes for the Chamber of the House of Lords, the ‘Spirit of Chivalry’ and ‘Spirit of Justice’, in the medieval style favoured by Dyce, Eastlake and Prince Albert. His large narrative subjects of the 1850s culminated in the cartoons of the ‘Meeting of Wellington and Blücher’ and its companion ‘Death of Nelson’  for the Royal Gallery of the Palace of Westminster, which he completed in 1861 and 1865 respectively.

Among some reproductive engravings of his original drawings and paintings, a watercolour of the lexicographer, antiquary and poet, William Owen Pughe (1759-1835) can be found in the Library’s Portrait Collection.

Leslie Ward (‘Spy’) (1851-1922)

Sir Leslie Ward [pseud. Spy], caricaturist and portrait painter, was born in 1851 in London. Both his parents, Edward Matthew Ward (1816-1879) and Henrietta Mary Ada Ward (1832-1924) were painters of some note. Ward was educated at Chase’s Preparatory School near Slough, and Eton college. Here he drew caricatures of his schoolfellows and masters. He left school in 1869, and following an unhappy year working at an architects office, his father agreed to support his training as an artist. He entered the Royal Academy Schools in 1871. His chosen field of work in which he excelled was polite caricature.

In 1873, a family friend introduced Ward to the founder owner and editor of Vanity Fair, Thomas Gibson Bowles. He noted Ward’s ability to capture the likenesses of prominent public figures and invited him to join the staff of the famous magazine. As his pseudonym, Ward suggested to Bowles that he use ‘Spy…'"to observe secretly, or to discover at a distance or in concealment”, and so it was that Leslie Ward signed his portraits ‘Spy.’

Between 1873 and 1889, both he and Carlo Pellegrini (pseud. ‘Ape’) dominated the weekly coloured cartoon featured in Vanity Fair. He drew approximately 1,325 cartoons for the magazine between 1873 and 1911, capturing on many occasions the public persona of the subject. He often worked from memory, after observing his subjects in their working roles. He became the most well-known Vanity Fair artist, emphasised by the fact that the caricatures are often referred to as ‘Spy cartoons.’

Bibliography

  • Jones, Edward V. Breeze, 1987. ‘John Kelt Edwards (1875-1934).’ Rhamant bro, Rhif 4 (Gaeaf 1987), p. 8-10.
  • Ceri Levy, 1996. ‘Obituary: Mervyn Levy.’ The Independent, [internet] 17 May
  • Turner, Jane (ed.), 1996. The dictionary of art. Basingstoke : Macmillan