Ceri Richards 1903-1971

Ceri Richards was born in Dunvant near Swansea in 1903. His father worked as a tinplate worker and conducted the local choir, with Ceri being taught to play the piano at an early age. Music and poetry formed an important part of every day life in early twentieth century Wales, which clearly influenced Ceri's painting, drawing and printmaking throughout his life.

 

On leaving secondary school, Richards was apprenticed to an electrical engineer and started to attend evening classes on engineering drawing. He soon realised that drawing was his main interest and, in 1921, enrolled as a full-time student at the Swansea School of Art. In his final year, during a summer school at Gregynog Hall, the home of Gwendoline and Margaret Davies, Richards encountered first-hand the pictures of the modern European masters and confirmed his vocation.

 

After winning a scholarship to study at Royal College of Art, Richards moved to London and, in 1929, married his contemporary at the College, Frances Clayton. With the great leaps in his work that followed, his reputation as a painter grew and he held his first one-man show at the Glynn Vivian Museum and Art Gallery, Swansea in 1930.

 

While at the Royal College, Ceri had read Kandinsky and become absorbed in the work of Picasso and Matisse. In the 1930s he had also become interested in the Surrealists, particularly their automatic techniques of creation and elements of chance. This lead Richards to adapt his subject matter and experiment with style and technique. In his experimentation, Richards made a number of relief constructions and paintings which reflected his understanding of Cubism and abstraction.

During the Second World War Richards was appointed Head of Painting at Cardiff School of Art, returning to London for good after 1945. This short time back in Wales did see a refocussing on the theme of nature, or more correctly the cycles of nature. This was related to the poetry of Dylan Thomas, in particular 'The Force that through the green fuse drives the flower.'

By the end of the 1940s Richards was exploring the subject of the music room interior, usually revolving around a pianist. This was an expression of Richard's great passion for music and their mood is not always calm. This period also saw a fascination with the legend of the Sabine women, often finding expression as pictures of the women on the walls of his interior scenes. During the 40s and 50s Richards exhibited with some influential London galleries, including the Redfern, where he had a solo show in 1946.

In the early 50s, Richards had started a series of pictures paying homage to his favourite composer, Beethoven. During the 1950s and 60s Ceri Richards created paintings, collages and constructions on the subject of the submerged cathedral. Music was still prevalent since this subject was taken from Debussy's prelude La Cathédrale Engloutie. Richards died in London on 9 November 1971.