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Gallery Collection and Richard Glynn Vivian's original bequest

Founded in 1911, The Gallery offers a broad range of visual arts from the original bequest of Richard Glynn Vivian (1835-1919) to art of the twenty-first century.

Thumbnail: Gallery Collection and Richard Glynn Vivian's original bequest

In 1855, Richard Glynn Vivian inherited his share in the family's famous Hafod Copper works. He travelled the world and collected art throughout his life and in his old age, he decided to gift his collection to the people of Swansea for their enjoyment, ensuring that the Gallery was built to house the artworks. The City and County of Swansea is proud to inherit this unique legacy, and the Gallery continues to thrive today.

Richard Glynn Vivian's bequest comprises British and European old masters, with notable Welsh artists such as Richard Wilson (1713-1782) and Penry Williams (1798-1885). European oil paintings date from the sixteenth to the nineteenth century, and many of these will be redisplayed when the Gallery reopens following the refurbishment. These include R. E. Pfeninger's portrait of Richard Glynn Vivian, religious paintings such as Ecce Homo attributed to Correggio (c.1489-1534), as well as works by Gustave Doré (1832-1883), purchased from the artist's studio sale in Paris in 1885.

François Depeaux (1853-1920), who was a major collector of Impressionist painting and patron of Alfred Sisley (1839-1899), loved Swansea, where he established his business in coal mining, and he donated an important group of Impressionist paintings by artists from Rouen, where he lived. Other major gifts have since followed, and more recently, architect, Sir Alex Gordon (1917-1999), bequeathed his very fine personal collection to the Gallery, with paintings by Ben Nicholson, Barbara Hepworth, John Piper and Kyffin Williams, amongst others.

The twentieth century is particularly well -represented with modern painting acquired by William Grant Murray (1877-1970), the Gallery's first Curator and Principal of Swansea School of Art. He received considerable encouragement from local art patron, Winifred Coombe Tenant (1874-1956), and so the Gallery soon establish a tradition of supporting contemporary art practice. The collection includes significant paintings by local Welsh artists, such as Evan Walters, as well as Gwen John, Augustus John and J. D. Innes; works were later acquired by Paul Nash, Ivon Hitchens and Stanley Spencer, alongside Cedric Morris, Alfred Janes and Ceri Richards. The 1930s also brought to Swansea the British Empire panels by Sir Frank Brangwyn, which can be seen at the city's Brangwyn Hall, The Gallery continues to be supported by the Contemporary Art Society in London and Wales who, together with the Friends of the Glynn Vivian Art Gallery, have donated many important paintings by artists such as Mark Gertler, Wyndham Lewis and Josef Herman.

Welsh artists are well-represented with late twentieth-century paintings by Terry Setch, Harry Holland, Glyn Jones and Sue Williams, and more recent work by Shani Rhys-James, Richard Monahan, Brendan Stuart Burns and Merlin James.

The Gallery also houses outstanding applied art collections of European and Oriental origin through the Vivian bequest, as well as our renowned collection of Swansea pottery and porcelain.

The Collection lives deep in the memory of our local communities and continues to play an active part in our culture and heritage today. 

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