john uzzell edwards
If you are interested in any of these artworks, please contact Mary Uzzell Edwards
John Uzzell Edwards, who died aged 79, was an artist for whom Wales, its Celtic history and his own family's story together infused a lifetime's passionate picture-making.
When he won the Prix de Rome, which enabled him to study at the British School at Rome in 1968-69, Uzzell Edwards found it impossible to paint the wonderful surroundings there. He was reluctant to relinquish the Welsh themes that had preoccupied him.
Instead, he sent home for a clutch of family photographs, choirs and wedding groups. His take on these subjects is evident in paintings such as Welsh Wedding (1982), now held in the collection of Merthyr Tydfil Museums Service; Bride and Groom, Tenby (1970s), held by Tenby Museum & Art Gallery; and Swansea Girls Gypsy Band (1973), held by National Museum Wales. These are among 12 of his paintings in public collections. The Bride and Groom and Gypsy Band are remarkable for the way the artist reconfigured the subjects' faces, seemingly with a debt to both cubism and Celtic art.
Uzzell Edwards was a restless experimenter. The Four Musicians (1967), in the University of York collection, and Bird Lives I (2001), held by Brecknock Museum & Art Gallery, are exuberantly coloured, substantially abstract works.
Uzzell Edwards was born in Deri, in the Rhymney Valley, only child of a miner, Charles Edwards, and his wife, Ellen (nee Uzzell). His father aspired to be a painter but the family was so hard up that he often needed to work double shifts. John showed early talent, so in 1948 his father took him to the Dowlais Settlement, which provided education for adults and children, where art classes were given by the German exile Heinz Koppel.
When John was 15, Pengam grammar school was enlightened enough to send him to art school in Cardiff to apply for a junior art scholarship. After showing them a fine portfolio of work, he was asked to draw the inside of a theatre from memory. Never having been to one, he sat rigid with panic, could not complete the task and was sent home. Without funding, he became a qualified engineering illustrator.
In 1957, deciding that he wanted to do more with his life, he went to Paris, drawing endlessly, mostly boats and waterways. Back in Wales, as an illustrator for the Ministry of Defence near Tenby, he had a show of his paintings at Thomson House in Cardiff and was encouraged by the artists John Piper and Frederick Könekamp. Through a visiting professor from York University, Philip Brockbank, Uzzell Edwards in 1966 gained a year's Granada arts fellowship at the university, meeting Mary Whitfield, whom he married in 1967.
In 1972, they moved to Swansea. While working as an illustrator for Swansea University, Uzzell Edwards had an exhibition there in 1978. With Mary teaching and earning, he reduced his working hours, then in 1985 left to paint full-time, in 1986 becoming artist in residence at Glynn Vivian Art Gallery.
In 1988, Uzzell Edwards was granted an Arts Council of Wales travel scholarship to study Celtic art in Europe. Ten years later, he formed a new group of painters, Ysbryd/Spirit Wales. He participated in the Euro-Celtic exhibition at the Interceltic festival, at Lorient, Brittany, in 2008. This followed a major show of his work at Moma Wales, Machynlleth, in 2006.
He was twice awarded the main painting prize at the National Eisteddfod of Wales.
This year, Tenby Museum & Art Gallery will hold a joint exhibition of Uzzell Edwards's work and that of his son, Charles, aka Pure Evil. Charles is going to include paintings made by his Grandfather, Charles Edwards, the miner from Deri; so that 3 generations of the artist family will be shown together for the first time.
Golden Green (SOLD)
Exploding Quilt (SOLD)
White Stripe Quilt