The Art of Gordon Stuart at Swansea Museum

January 14th – February 11th 2016.

There are very few artists working in Wales who painted as many portraits of famous people as did Gordon Stuart. His prodigious output spanned over six decades. Yet there was so much more to his work than just portraiture as this small exhibition will reveal.

Gordon Thomas Stuart was born in Toronto in 1924 into a working class family.  His considerable talent was spotted early on and in 1934 he attended art classes in the city art gallery  where he won a prize of $100 for a drawing. On leaving school he worked in a graphic design company. In 1942 he joined the Canadian Army and came to Britain for the first time.

Gordon spent most of his military service in Italy where he was captivated by the landscape and the people. His artistic skills were used to draw sketches of enemy positions. When the war ended he returned to Canada with the intention of saving enough money to return to Italy. Back in Toronto he resumed his art studies and became assistant art editor of New Liberty magazine.

In 1952 he returned to Europe and spent an enjoyable year in Paris. When his money ran out he moved to London and combined work with part time study at St. Martin’s College. Finding it difficult to survive in London he decided to return to Canada after firstly visiting Carmarthen. In west Wales his fortunes picked up, he attended classes in the local art school met his future wife Mair and painted the last portrait of Dylan Thomas, in Laugharne in September 1953.

Following their marriage in 1955, Mair and Gordon moved to London. Gordon trained as a teacher and worked in several schools across the city.  They returned to Wales in 1975 when Gordon took up a part time lecturing post in Dyfed College of Art in Carmarthen.

After his retirement from the in 1986  he became a full-time painter. Although he still took portrait commissions , much of his subject matter was drawn from the landscape of west Wales, and still life studio compositions mainly of flowers. Gordon and Mair travelled extensively during this time to Canada and Europe. In 1992 a trip to the south of France was the inspiration for some of his most memorable works a series of paintings of Boule players. Gordon liked nothing more than capturing individuals in their day to day lives – children playing, people returning home, or shopping, or simply walking in the rain.

In 1995 Gordon was appointed artist in residence when Swansea hosted the Year of Literature. Over the course of the year a glittering array of authors, poets, artists, musicians, politicians came to the city. Gordon made hundreds of sketches and well over eighty portraits.

Gordon was a regular exhibitor at the Royal Academy summer exhibitions. He won a number of prizes for his paintings and five of his portraits have been bought by the National Portrait Gallery, London. His work is held in many public collections in Britain and Canada. Gordon became a Royal Cambrian Academician in 2001 and was honoured by Swansea University in 2014 for his contribution to art.

A new book, The Art of Gordon Stuart by Dylan Rees and Twm Gardner is launched at The Taliesin Arts Centre on Saturday 23rd January at 2pm.