Royal Cambrian Academy

Upper Gallery Lower Gallery
27 Oct 18 - 29 Dec 18

ROGER CECIL

Join us today, Saturday 27 October at 2pm for the opening of this exhibition.

Arddangosfa wedi'i drefnu gyda'r ystâd Roger Cecil a Peter Wakelin awdur y Llyfr 'A Secret Artist' - An exhibition organised with the Roger Cecil estate and Peter Wakelin author of the book 'A Secret Artist'.

Roger Cecil (1942-2015) has been described as one of the great abstract artists of his generation, yet in his lifetime he was hardly known outside a circle of fellow painters. He was content to paint for himself, protecting his privacy and exhibiting rarely. If he did show his work, collectors rushed to acquire it. Among curators, he was a legendary figure.

At art college in the early 1960s he was a star of his generation, but he walked out on a scholarship to the Royal College of Art and returned to practise on his own in the South Wales mining village and terraced house where he grew up. He devoted himself to painting, living simply and working as a casual labourer, opencast miner and art tutor while producing work of extraordinary beauty and sophistication. After his parents’ deaths the whole house became his studio.


Legacy of a ‘secret artist’

Roger Cecil made headlines in February 2015 when his body was found in a field near Cwmbran.  Police had issued an appeal two days earlier when a 72-year-old man suffering from Alzheimer’s went missing from a hospital at Newport, South Wales. Searches involved a helicopter and 50 police officers with dogs. The subsequent inquest found he had died of hypothermia while trying to walk the 16 miles to his home at Abertillery through a winter night.

None of the initial publicity mentioned that Roger Cecil was an artist, but it soon became apparent that this was one of the greatest painters Wales had produced.  Since then his legacy has been celebrated with a biography and a series of critically acclaimed and popular exhibitions.  A new exhibition, including many previously unseen works, opens on 27 October at the Royal Cambrian Academy in Conwy.

Roger Cecil was an artist outside the mainstream.  He trained at Newport College of Art but when he won a prestigious scholarship to the Royal College of Art in London at the start of the swinging sixties he walked out to go home to Abertillery and work as a labourer so he could paint on his own and without influence.

Although to many his art was completely unknown, fellow artists and enthusiastic collectors admired it, not just in Wales but in London, where he showed quietly in commercial galleries from the late 1980's onward.  Comparisons can be drawn with great twentieth-century abstract artists but Roger Cecil was remarkably uninfluenced.  The artist Mary Lloyd Jones said in 2008, ‘I would rate him as one of the best painters in Britain, or even anywhere.’

The new exhibition shows a sample of the remarkable body of work still in his house after he died.  It gives insights into his unique methods, which involved materials he could find cheaply and tools he made himself. It marks the discovery of an artist of real quality. The recent book, Roger Cecil: A Secret Artist by Peter Wakelin (Sansom, 2017), is the first full study of the artist’s work and remarkable life story.

The reputation of Roger Cecil’s mesmerising art can only grow as his legacy is revealed.

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Over 50 galleries in Wales participate in the Collectorplan scheme which assists UK residents to buy original works of art and crafts by living artists.