March 2015

Penarth Art Collector's Heritage

The art collection of well-known Trinity Church Methodist, now deceased, Dr. John Gibbs has gone on show at Wrexham Methodist Church and Glydwr University. He was a firm believer in the power of art to promote Christian values. He collected pictures throughout his life and many were made by the avant garde artists of their time. The 'big names' included Stanley Spencer, Graham Sutherland, Ceri Richards, Lucian Freud and John Piper.

Stanley Spencer was a strict Methodist remaining a teetotaller throughout his life. Much of his artwork is infused with the values of Christianity. His most memorable pictures hang in Sandham Memorial Chapel in the village of Burghclere, Hampshire. It was privately built and funded by Louis and Mary Behrend in memory of her brother who died during the final year of the war. In the paintings Spencer refers to his own wartime experiences as a First World War soldier and orderly in Macedonia. The Chapel is now owned by the National Trust.

Dr. Gibbs was a great supporterof the National Museum of Wales. He contributed greatly to enable the Museum to purchase 'View of the Islands' (1897) made by the French Impressionist, Alfred Sisley whilst residing in Penarth. He was also an enthusiastic collector of Welsh and local artists including Eric Malthouse who as painter and teacher at Cardiff School of Art made a great contribution to the understanding of modern art by the next generation of artists. Amongst other modern Welsh artist receiving the patronage of John Gibbs and his deeply supportive wife, Shelia, was Shani Rhys James who went on to win several international awards for her paintings.

The Gibbs art collection is now booked solid for several venues throughout Great Britain until 2017. A full colour catalogue by art critic and co-curator, Peter Walelin, accompanies the exhibition.