Ceri Richards

Ceri Richards is regarded as one of the most important British artists of the 20th century, and was the most successful Welsh artist of the period.

Last updated: 01 March 2011

Ceri Giraldus Richards was born in Dunvant in 1903, the son of a tinplate worker who was also a playwright and a musician. Richards would later become an accomplished musician himself and music, along with poetry and nature, would greatly influence his work.

He studied at the Swansea School of Art from 1921 to 1924. In 1923 he saw the Davies sisters' collection of Impressionist paintings at their home in Gregynog near Newton in Powys, which changed his view of the world forever and fed his artistic imagination. (The Davies sisters' collection is now housed at the National Museum of Wales in Cardiff.)

Ceri Richards' Major Minor screenprint. Property of BBC Cymru Wales

Ceri Richards' Major Minor screenprint. Property of BBC Cymru Wales.

Richards won a scholarship to study at the Royal College of Art in London from 1924 to 1927. It was here that he met his future wife, fellow student and contemporary artist Frances Clayton. They married in 1929.

He lived in London for the majority of the rest of his life, though taught for four years as the head of painting at Cardiff School of Art during World War Two, from 1940 to 1944. During this war period he produced drawings at Gowerton tinplate factory, where his father had worked.

His reputation as a painter grew in the 1920s and he had his first one-man exhibition at the Glynn Vivian Art Gallery in Swansea in 1930. Interested in surrealism since the early 1930s, by this time Richards was one of Britain's most experimental young artists.

Richards is well known in Wales for his paintings and drawings based on the poetry of Dylan Thomas, and other writers such as Vernon Watkins.

He was appointed CBE in 1960, won the Gold Medal at the 1961 National Eisteddfod and also won the Einaudi Painting Prize at the Venice Biennale in 1962.

In 1964-5 he designed stained glass for Derby Cathedral and in 1965 was commissioned to design the tabernacle and windows for the Chapel of the Blessed Sacrament at Liverpool Roman Catholic Cathedral.

Richards died in November 1971 in London.

His centenary year in 2003 saw a revival of interest in his work, with a number of retrospective exhibitions and the publication of a monograph written by art critic, and Richards' son-in-law, Mel Gooding.

Collections of Richards' work are held by the National Museum Wales in Cardiff, the Glynn Vivian Art Gallery in Swansea, the Tate Gallery in London and the Manchester City Art Gallery.

Selected reading

  • Mel Gooding, Ceri Richards (2002)

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