Ernest Zobole

Image of Ernest Zobole © Bernard Mitchell

Last updated: 26 January 2011

Ernest Zobole, whose artist output depicting the Rhondda Valley, Welsh life and landscape spanned half a century, remains one of Wales' most important artists.

Ernest Zobole was born in April 1927 in the industrial Ystrad Rhondda to parents who had emigrated from southern Italy in around 1910.

He was educated at Porth Grammar School and spent five years training at Cardiff College of Art, after serving with the British army in Palestine and Egypt. He married his childhood sweetheart, Christina Baker, after completing his military service.

During the post-war two hour train journey from the Rhondda Valley to Cardiff, Zobole would spend the time debating art with contemporaries such as Charles Burton, Glyn Morgan, Nigel Flower, David Mainwaring and Robert Thomas. This group of talented Welsh artists were known as the Rhondda Group.

Zobole taught at Llangefni in Anglesey from 1953 for four years, but found the area desolate and featureless and soon returned home to the Rhondda. In 1957 he taught at a Church in Wales school in Aberdare for two years and then moved closer to home by taking up a post at the County Secondary School in Treorchy.

From 1963 Zobole was based at Newport College of Art, where he would remain until his retirement. In 1965 he won a bursary from the Welsh Arts Council and in 1974 was commissioned for a painting for the foyer of the Welsh College of Music and Drama.

Zobole took early retirement from teaching in 1984, after which he was able to concentrate solely on his painting. He was made an Honorary Fellow of the University of Wales Swansea in 1996.

His wife Chris died in 1997 and Zobole died two years later at Llwynypia, Rhondda Cynon Taff in November 1999. He was awarded a posthumous doctorate by the University of Glamorgan in 2001.

Selected reading

  • Ceri Thomas, Ernest Zobole: A Life in Art (2007)

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