Many artists have found inspiration in the sublime mountains of Snowdonia or the coastal scenery and industrial landscape of Wales, few however have been drawn to the isolated farming communities in the west. John Elwyn consistently drew upon his experience of rural life in his native south Cardiganshire, inspired by his feelings towards the Welsh landscape, its people, their language and long-established social traditions.
John Elwyn was born in Cardiganshire in 1916 and trained at Carmarthen School of Art and the Art School of the Royal West of England Academy, Bristol from where he won a Royal Exhibition Scholarship in painting to the Royal College of Art, London. He taught in London and exhibited in many galleries across the city. He then moved to Hampshire in 1948 where he continued to work and paint and stayed until his in death in 1997.
His unique and distinctive adventurous use of colour vividly celebrates the gentler hills, and cheerful people, of the rural west. He consistently drew upon his experience of rural life in his native town and was inspired by the landscape, its people and social traditions but was forced to draw upon his memories of Wales rather than paint en plein air. When questioned about his passionate interest in local life, he would often quote Benjamin Britten: “The important things are the local things.”. His evocative interpretations have a great collectors following and was greatly admired by his contemporaries such as Sir Kyffin Williams.
He was recognised as one of the most eminent of contemporary painters, and was feted with many honours. He won the Gold Medal for Fine Art at the National Eisteddfod in 1956, held sole exhibitions at the Leicester Galleries in London and was commissioned to make lithographs by the Curwen Press and to illustrate some of the Shell Guides to the Countryside. He won the Gold Medal for Fine Art at the 1956 National Eisteddfod of Wales and his retrospective exhibition at the National Library of Wales in 1996 was the final accolade for a Welsh painter who had practised his art with unswerving devotion and great distinction. After falling and sustaining an injury he sadly died in 1997.