Companion of the more famous Kyffin

Jonathan Brooks-Jones discovers a neglected Welsh artist

The 20th century Welsh landscape painter Charles Wyatt Warren is to be celebrated in an exhibition at Panter and Hall gallery in London in September. It will be the first West End exhibition of this important and until recently, neglected Welsh artist.

Painting the Snowdonian landscape during the 20th Century, Wyatt Warren was a contemporary of the more famous Sir Kyffin Williams – the artist credited with developing and establishing what has become a distinctive north Wales style. Wyatt Warren’s development followed that of Williams, beginning in the 1950s with a solid traditional brushstroke, gradually moving in the seventies and eighties towards the sculpted, palette knife impastos that made Kyffin Williams famous.

It would be easy but unfair to pass Wyatt Warren off as an acolyte or copyist of Kyffin Williams. Instead he is best viewed as a contemporary colleague in sculpting what has become a north Wales artistic signature. His earlier works are more classical in feel, often featuring silver birch trees, shamelessly included to demonstrate his technical ability with paint.

Born in Caernarfon in 1908, Wyatt Warren attended the local grammar school before completing external studies through London University. He went on to enjoy a successful career in the Finance department at Caernarfon County Council, painting in his spare time. Largely self-taught, Wyatt Warren began painting at home as a hobby, selling his work in local galleries and cafes for only £10-15 a piece.

Given his place in relation to Williams it is perhaps not too surprising that there is such little information about him on the internet. A Google search yields very few results containing information about his life or work. His name appears in compendiums of Welsh artists, but there is very little else besides. This scarcity of information belies the growing interest in his work. Ironically, Kyffin Williams’ fame – which once eclipsed Wyatt Warren’s work – is now helping drive an interest in his paintings. As price tags attached to Williams’ work grow increasingly expensive, those wishing to collect 20th Century Welsh art are having to look elsewhere.

Wyatt Warren may well be the perfect candidate for these collectors. Not only was he a contemporary of Kyffin Williams, but he was highly prolific, producing 20-40 pictures each year and notching up over fifty solo shows in his lifetime, mainly in the UK but also in the US and Canada. His rich impasto oils have been shown at the National Eisteddfod, the Royal Cambrian Academy, the Denbighshire Art Society and the Royal Institute of Oil Painters. He had a solo show at the London Welsh Association in 1960. Work was commissioned from him by the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO) in Brussels and University College of North Wales, Bangor.

Wyatt Warren had a somewhat smoother application with the palette knife than Kyffin. Many of his paintings, especially from his later period, seem to evoke the distortive effect of rain against the window, something he’d be no stranger to living and working in northern Wales.

Wyatt Warren also had a keen interest in public life, contributing papers to the Gwynedd Archives which documented Royal Visits to Wales, including papers relating to the investiture of two Princes of Wales (Edward and Charles). A keen supporter of the arts in north Wales, he was a founding member and secretary of the North Wales Group, a member of the Caernarfon Art Group and the Paddington Art Society. He was also a founder member of the Caernarfon School of Welsh Landscape Painters.

Do you have any information about Charles Wyatt Warren? Both the gallery and the author would be glad to know more about him. If anyone knew him, has any information about him, or owns any of his paintings please get in touch using the comments form below.

Jonathan Brooks-Jones is sub-editor for The full e-catalogue of the exhibition is available here.

14 thoughts on “Companion of the more famous Kyffin

  1. I have a Charles Wyatt Warren painting of the bridge at Beddgelert. I bought it in a little gallery in Caernarfon while on holiday in about 1964, as a present for my mother. She had it for years and I inherited it when she died in 1999. It is a small oil which cost me 8 guineas, eqivalent to about £144 in 2012 prices. In the exhibition, there was another Warren, which I preferred, called “Above Nant Gwynant”. However it cost 14 guineas, which I could not afford. The gallery also had some art by Kyffin Williams including a large semi-abstract rather expressionist canvas called ‘War machine’ or something like that. So Warren and Williams were being sold together, though the Williams pictures were ten times more expensive. A schoolfriend of mine, whose father was a Congregational minister, originally from Dowlais, showed me proudly a Warren which his parents had in their home in London in about 1967. It was a large painting of a whitewashed house, viewed from the end. So Warren was quite well-known and was being bought in Wales in the 1960s.

  2. I am now the proud owner of a Wyatt Warren I inherited the picture Mynedd Mawr from my late mother last year. I once met the artist when studying for my scout artist proficiency badge c.1968 ? And went to his house in Caernarfon to meet him. I remember he showqed me around his gallery and we discussed paiting styles etc. Not sure when my parents acquired the picture itself it has a price tag of £82 on the reverse but believe we have had it since the 60’s ? My dad used to also work for Gwynedd CC so may have met him at work.

  3. Myself and my husband are very big fans of the work of Charles Wyatt-Warren, owning a beautiful oil on board of a farm in Anglesey, Wales. I have to say that after viewing several original peices of his work and after scouring auction sites, I feel his work, even at current market value is amazing value for money. I also feel that despite many of these paintings being produced from the 50’s onwards, the way in which they were created is so special that they remain modern in appearance and can be enjoyed by all generations, including young couples such as ourselves. I feel our painting is of exceptional quality and is a sound investment into Welsh art.

  4. I own a Wyatt Warren painting that my father had as one of 2(the other went to my late brother’s estate) . We actually lived next door to Charles in Caernarvon (England Rd North) in the late 60’s …….The painting reminds me of that time of growing up………..

  5. I once met Charles Wyatt Warren when my Mother took me to his house in Caernarfon to buy me a house-warming present for our new house in 1975. He was most charming and showed us round his studio and gave us coffee. I had recently started painting in oils and he gave me many tips. We came away with a beautiful large painting of a view of Snowdon. Since then I have acquired another 5 of his paintings and as I now live in England they are a constant reminder of my beloved North Wales where I was born. Space dictates that I need to sell one of his very large ones, so when I have ascertained a value it will be put on the market for others to enjoy.

  6. I managed to buy (from a car boot sale!) a Charles Wyatt Warren painting, oil on board, 22″ x 10″, of ‘Cottage at Llanberis’. It is signed in red in the bottom lefthand corner and on the back, in black marker pen, his name and address, High Meadows, Caernarvon. Is it possible to date this from his address? To me, I feel it could be fairly early as it not as refined as some of his later paintings
    Although a little grubby and in need of a clean, I feel this was one of my better purchases looking at prices of other CWW paintings. Any ideas of value?

  7. In 1970 my parents gave me a gift of £50. It was the proceeds of a small policy that they had taken out for me at the end of WW2 when I was only a few years old. At the time they had imagined that it would be a princely sum when the policy matured. I told them I would never spend the money until I found something very special to spend it on. The following year my wife and I were in a small cafe at Dolgellau and there were two very attractive oil paintings for sale hung on the wall. They were £25 each and I bought them.

    We liked them so much that we wrote to the painter ( CWW ) and asked him where we might find other of his paintings. He replied and gave a list of places that he occasionally left them for sale.

    We spent some time working our way around the area looking for some. We found a shop at Llandudno that had a number of them and we bought a few. Some were seascapes, but to be honest they did not appeal to me although my wife liked them. The proprietor said that the problem for him in selling the paintings was that CWW insisted on framing the paintings himself and his skills in making a mitre joint were lacking. He said he’d asked him on a number of occasions to have them framed for him but CWW’s response was that people were buying them for the paintings not the frames.

    Unfortunately I had to agree about the unattractive frames and years later, I had them re-framed. I kept the old ones though and still have them in the loft. When they were being re-framed I left them at a place some miles from home where local artist’s had their work done. It was a few weeks before I could collect them and when I went back they were on display. I was told that people had been asking if they could buy them every day and that the local artists had though they were magnificent.

    My wife and I parted company in 1980 and I kept my two paintings and she took the others. I didn’t mind losing them as it was the first two that had spoken to me and still give me pleasure from their place on the living room wall today.

  8. Charles Wyatt Warren was the 8th son of Charles Wyatt & Rosa Bradwen Warren. He was , at one time,
    chief clerk at Caernarfonshire County Council. He had the solicitor’s qualification & the diploma in public administration and was a Justice of the Peace & Deputy Lord Lieutenant of the County of Gwynedd. He retired from local government when he was 60, to concentrate on painting.
    For health reasons, he went to live near his daughter in Gloucestershire where he died in 1993.

  9. He was the 8th son of Charles Wyatt & Rosa Bradwen Warren. He had the solicitor’s qualification & a diploma in public administration. He was ,at one time, chief clerk at Caernarfonshire County Council, a Justice of the Peace & Deputy Lord Lieutenant of Gwynedd. On retirement from local government, at age
    60, he concentrated on painting.
    For health reasons, he went to live near his daughter in Gloucestershire, where he died in 1993.

  10. I have a Charles Wyatt Warren oil on board painting in its original frame given to me by mother a few years ago. She went to a lot of auction sales in the 60s and 70s and picked it up for ‘oh, about a shilling’! It has his address label showing High Meadows, Caernarvon, is signed in the bottom left hand corner in red and has a sale sticker denoting it as ‘BRIDGE NEAR RHYD DDU’ and pricing it at 15 guineas. I have kept it thus far in the original frame although I admit I am not keen on it and may have it reframed. November 2015

  11. Just discovered that we have 2 Warren oils here in Boston Massachusetts. They came over in my late parent’s effects in 2002 and we’d never really checked them. I assume both of them must have been acquired in the ’50’s or early ’60’s as they moved from Caernarfon in ’61 or ’62. One is a view of the road north of Waunfawr with Mynydd Mawr on the right, Moel Eilio on the left and is it possibly Tryfan in the background. I figure that was probably painted outside the Betws Garmon chapel. The other is a Picture of Snowdon with a lake in the foreground with 2 promontories reaching towards each other in the center. I see on the internet other pictures of his with the same scene which I’m guessing is the lake on the Rhyd-Ddu path up Snowdon.
    Was interesting to see comments about the frames in earlier posts as the Snowdon picture is in one of the home made frames with the poor corners, also has his name, house name and phone number on the back It also has the previously mentioned silver birch trees in the foreground of the lake.
    I suspect my father got them from Charles himself as he worked in the treasurer’s department in Count Hall caernarfon.

  12. Dear iwa

    A friend has an original oil painting by Charles Wyatt Warren which he is interested in having valued or selling.

    The painting, dating from between 1953-1955, 19.5cm x 15.5cm and still in its original frame, is of the stable block of the Plas Glynllifon mansion Caernarvon . It was painted at a summer school held at the mansion between 1953-1955. Charles gave the painting to my friends father, David Stanley Davies, Principal of the Caernarvonshire Farm Institute at the time.

    We wondered if you had any further information on the painting or could offer any advice on the valuation and possibilities of selling the painting?

    With best wishes

    Kevin Jones

  13. Hello Kevin,

    I’m afraid we can’t offer any advice on valuation or selling, but I’ve published your comment in case readers are able to offer advice.

    Many thanks,

    Rhea – Editor

Comments are closed.

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