Certainly his landscapes and portraits, executed with a palette knife, are well made and easily recognisable. For many they go beyond painting into a symbolism of Wales, yet how close to the generally accepted view of Wales as politically left-wing, industrialised, chapel-going, urban, was the artist himself? Williams' life was dominated by rural Snowdonia – the main subject of his painting – while he himself came from a bourgeois background in which he remained all his life. He hunted from childhood, was privately educated in England and for many years taught art at Highgate School, where the middle classes of north London educated their children. He volunteered for and was invalided out of the army and became a land agent in North Wales. In due course he became an OBE, was knighted and was Deputy Lieutenant of Gwynedd.
Beyond this conundrum of Welshness, Ian Skidmore's memoir of Williams also addresses his strongly held views on art, his involvement in the creation of galleries and, significantly, his long affliction by epilepsy, which had profound effects on both his professional and personal lives. Thoroughly researched from primary sources this is the most revealing book about Wales' most significant artist.
Ian Skidmore was for many years a neighbour of Kyffin Williams on the island of Anglesey. A former Fleet Street journalist and popular broadcaster on BBC Radio Wales, he now lives in retirement in the east of England.