The Honourable Society of Cymmrodorion

Recognising the contribution of Wales in contemporary society

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Love, Money and Art: The Davies Sisters and a Fortune for Wales

Trevor Fishlock

Wednesday 23 September, 2015

Gwenda Sippings, Chair of the Society’s Council in the chair

About the Lecture

Gwendoline Davies (1882-1951) and Margaret Davies (1884-1963) were the granddaughters of the nineteenth century industrialist, David Davies of Llandinam, Montgomeryshire, railway builder and pioneer of the coal industry in South Wales. The Davies sisters’ childhood was dominated by the strict beliefs of Calvinistic Methodism. They learned that it was their Christian duty to make good use of the great wealth they would inherit. They championed social, economic, educational and cultural initiatives in Wales and beyond. As young women they developed a deep love of the visual arts and music, travelled widely in Europe and collected the art works of what were to become some of the leading exponents of the Impressionist movement.

Gwendoline and Margaret believed that beauty had a power to do good. The art collection that they bequeathed to the Welsh nation embodies this belief, and it is thanks to their generosity that the National Museum Wales now houses the work of name such as Monet, Van Gogh, Cezanne, Renoir and Rodin. For all their fortune and privilege, they lived lives hones by shyness and self-denial, and haunted by love. Yet they adventured and pioneered: a medal salutes their Red Cross service in France during the Great War, for instance.

In his lecture, Trevor Fishlock outlined the lives of these extraordinary women and the remarkable impact that their idealism and generosity had on the cultural and intellectual life of Wales – an impact which is still with us today.

The Speaker

Trevor Fishlock is an author, broadcaster and foreign correspondent. He has worked on assignment in more than seventy countries and was staff correspondent of The Times in India and New York, and Moscow bureau chief for The Daily Telegraph. He has written books on Wales, India, Russia, America and on nineteenth-century exploration, and has presented more than 160 television programmes about life and history in Wales, winning a BAFTA award for his Wild Tracks series, which ran for fourteen years. He has made wo documentary programmes about the Davieses of Llandinam and about the Davies sisters’ trailblazing art collection. His book, A Gift of Sunlight: The fortune and quest of the Davies sisters of Llandinam, was published by the Gomer Press in 2014.

(With acknowledgement to Trevor Fishlock and to the publishers of A Gift of Sunlight, from which much of the above summary derives)

 

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