John Elwyn

Welsh artist John Elwyn is best known for his evocative portraits of his native south Cardiganshire, its people and rural landscapes.

Last updated: 03 March 2011

Elwyn was born William John Elwyn Davies at Emlyn Mill, the son of a weaver in Adpar, near Newcastle Emlyn on 20 November 1916.

He studied at the Carmarthen School of Art and then the West of England College of Art in Bristol from 1937 to 1938.

Seascape by John Elwyn. Property of BBC Cymru Wales

Seascape by John Elwyn. Property of BBC Cymru Wales.

He won a Royal Exhibition Scholarship to the Royal College of Art in London in 1938, studying until 1939 when his studies were interrupted by the outbreak of World War Two.

He completed his studies in 1947, having been engaged in land work as a conscientious objector during the war.

He lived in Hampshire from 1948, and taught at Portsmouth's College of Art until 1953 before taking up a post at Winchester School of Art, where he remained until his retirement in 1976.

Though he lived in England for a large part of his life, Wales remained his spiritual home and the basis for his artistic inspiration. He had been encouraged by Winifred Coombe Tennant, an influential and generous art patron to young Welsh painters, to paint what he knew best, which inspired him to paint scenes from the rural idyll of his childhood in Cardiganshire.

John Elwyn's Topiarist. Property of BBC Cymru Wales

John Elwyn's Topiarist. Property of BBC Cymru Wales.

Elwyn won the Gold Medal for Fine Art at the 1956 National Eisteddfod. He was invited to become an honorary member of the Royal Cambrian Academy in 1970, became a member of the Royal Institute in 1979 and honorary member of the Gorsedd of the Bards in 1982.

The National Library of Wales held an exhibition of Elwyn's work in 1996 shortly before his death on 13 November 1997.

Selected reading

  • Robert Meyrick, John Elwyn (2000)

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