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Painting the Valleys

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If you have a question about this talk, please contact Sheila Betts.

This talk marks the opening of ‘Valley of Vision’, the new exhibition at Wolfson College, curated by Dr Owen Edwards in collaboration with the University of South Wales.

There is an opportunity to preview the exhibition in the Combination Room at Wolfson College, from 5 to 5.50pm ahead of the talk.

‘Painting the Valleys’ is open to all who are interested and is free, but please register your intention to attend at

‘Valley of Vision’ runs from 21 January to 19 March and is open Saturdays and Sundays from 3 to 5pm.

For over two hundred years, the Valleys of South Wales have inspired painters and printmakers. J M W Turner, Richard Wilson and Julius Caesar Ibbetson were among the early visitors, drawn to the coalfield by the promise of extraordinary images – the visual combination of burgeoning heavy industry and dramatic landscapes. They came to witness the fiery spectacle of iron furnaces giving birth to a new industrial age. Here was the cutting edge of Britain’s pioneering technologies. Yet they discovered, within a stone’s throw of the blast furnaces and pit shafts, a landscape of waterfalls, precipitous forests and wild, romantic moorland.

Thankfully, the paintings have survived. Some of them are gathered here, at this exhibition. They tell of a different age, when coal was still king, when artists – Welsh, English, Polish, German – felt it vital to communicate through paint the dignity, hope and beauty they discovered in communities like Rhondda, Merthyr, Pontyberem, Aberdare, Pontypool and Blaenavon. They provide us, now, with a glimpse of a world that has been lost but one that deserves to be remembered.

Kim Howells

This talk is part of the Wolfson College Talks & Events series.

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