As part of BBC Wales’ St David’s Day celebrations, radio presenter and broadcaster Huw Stephens explores the untold story of Welsh art in this new three-part series.
As museums and galleries across the country remain closed, BBC Wales and BBC Four bring a St David’s Day treat to viewers’ homes, examining the riches of Welsh art. Huw Stephens discovers the many treasures of Welsh art, following the story from prehistoric times up to the present day.
In the first episode, Huw sees how Welsh art evolved from prehistoric rock art into the earliest Welsh portraits. His journey begins on Anglesey and a Neolithic burial site that’s home to art in its earliest form, Barclodiad y Gawres. He delves into the world of religious art, which delivered some of Wales’ most powerful and impressive works of art, from the towering Celtic crosses standing sentinel in churchyards, to the sleeping figure of Jesse, carved from a single piece of oak.
As artists moved their gaze beyond religion, the rise of portraiture began, with Hans Memling delivering the first known oil painting of a named Welsh person, John Donne, in the fifteenth century. Welsh art through the millennia placed Wales on the cutting edge of mainstream European creativity.
Presenter, Huw Stephens says “I think most viewers will, like me, be amazed at the all the wonderful Welsh art they just don’t know about – there really is so much to discover. It’s a rich and fascinating story and it’s been a privilege to tell it on television and bring it to audiences across the UK. I’ve always been interested in art from and about Wales but doing this series has given me some new national heroes.”
The Story of Welsh Art airs Monday, 1 March on BBC Two Wales and BBC Four, 9pm