|National Museum of Wales, Cardiff|
And lo, the sun shone on Cardiff once again. Not just a dry day, but another blue-sky sunny day. Nonetheless, I had one important indoor activity to which I needed to attend. The one-day stoppage was over, and the National Museum Cardiff demanded to be seen: in particular, the Impressionist and Post-Impressionist collection bequeathed to the Museum by Gwendoline and Margaret Davies.
Though the Davies sisters had no background or family history in art, they began collecting early on, and “by 1924 they had built up the largest and most important collection of French Impressionist and Post-Impressionist works in the country.” They had a good advisor, to be sure, but, as Gwendoline said, “the great joy of collecting is to do it yourself—with expert opinion, granted, but one does like to choose for oneself.” They amassed 260 paintings, all of which they bequeathed to the National Museum of Wales.
Among my favorites, and not known to me before viewing it in Wales, was Rain—Auvers, by van Gogh.
And I had to love Alfred Sisley’s Cliffs at Penarth, evening, low tide, not least because I’d been to a brilliant concert in Penarth, but also because Sisley was the only Impressionist to venture to Wales.
There was something else that struck me in viewing the collection the Davies sisters had amassed: not a single portrait of either sister was to be found anywhere. Quite a difference from another collector whose collection had recently been on view in New York . . . But then, the Davies sisters had just a slightly different philosophical bent:
The two girls, who never married, were brought up in rural Wales in the family tradition of Calvinistic Methodism. They were steadfast churchgoers, sabbatarians and lifelong teetotallers. They would neither dance nor go to the opera, although Gwendoline played the violin—she owned a Stradivarius—while Margaret sang and played the harp. This may explain the marked absence of Edgar Degas's paintings of scenes from the Paris Opera from their collection of Impressionist art.On my way out, after a good picking over of postcards on display, I thought about lunch in the museum’s cafe, but rejected it in favor of the great outdoors. I dug out of my pocket a soggy snack bar I’d somehow had the prescience to bring along and headed for Bute Park and the River Taff.
|Cardiff Castle, North Gate|
Bute Park abuts Cardiff Castle—it once formed the castle’s grounds. I meandered along the meandering pathways, my destination the River Taff, past what I realized, when I heard singing waft across the air, must be practice rooms of the Royal Welsh College of Music and Drama.
As for my final destination? I was reminded of the time I’d led visitors to New York City across Central Park from east to west, only to discover, after many twists and turns, that I’d taken them from north to south.
Aquabus, destination Cardiff Bay.
|Cardiff Bay, viewed from the Aquabus|
For a Spotify Playlist of the music of John Metcalf, click on Wales Diary. Metcalf is the Artistic Director of the Vale of Glamorgan Festival of Music, which occasioned my visit to Cardiff.
Hosanna, from John Metcalf's Plain Chants
© John Metcalf.
This is the fourth in a five-part series entitled Wales Diary. The first three parts can be found at these links: Cardiff Bay Barrage here, Cardiff Castle here, and The Covered Streets of Cardiff here. The fifth part, From Celtic Village to Castle Gardens, can be found here.
A three-part series of posts on the Vale of Glamorgan Festival of Music concerts I attended while in Wales, including listening lists, can be found at these links: Crossing a Bridge of Dreams here, Ancient Instruments, Timeless Sounds here, and Worlds Entwined here.
Credits: The first quotation about the Davies sisters can be found here, along with a great deal more about them and the Museum’s collection. The second quotation about them is taken from the exhibit notes. The third quotation about them can be found here. The images of Rain—Auvers and Cliffs at Penarth are widely available.