After Conference in Cardiff, I came away inspired, positive and upbeat and feeling like I could start putting lots of the ideas that were sparked by the various seminars and keynote speakers into practice. I’ve returned to Glasgow and I want to share the incredible story about two sisters: Gwendoline and Margaret Davies. After an amazing day of excellent presentations, we headed to a wonderful drinks reception held at the National Museum of Wales. I had the first time opportunity to visit an exhibition in the museum. It’s hard to believe two wealthy Welsh sisters bequeathed their large art collection to the museum and gallery in the mid-20th century, resulting in Cardiff owning one of the largest collections of Impressionist paintings outside of Paris.
Gwendoline and Margaret, born in 1882 and 1884 respectively, were the granddaughters of David Davies of Llandinam, a wealthy industrialist who made his fortune from contracting, coal-owning, railways and the docks at Barry.
Neither Gwendoline nor Margaret married. Gwendoline died in 1951 and in 1960, Margaret made a gift of Gregynog and its contents to the University of Wales, which has used it since as an inter-collegial conference centre. Margaret died in 1963.
The clean-living sisters were the granddaughters of David Davies of Llandinam, a self-made man whose fortune was derived from coal-owning, railways, and the Barry Docks. He left them £500,000 each, which enabled them to become passionate collectors. They were extraordinary women who led very sheltered lives. They had never danced, were not married and I’m not sure that they even went on a date. But together, they travelled Europe and amassed an outstanding art collection; by 1924, the sisters had amassed the largest collection of French Impressionist and Post-Impressionist works in Britain.
The collection includes three of Monet’s waterlilies paintings, three paintings by Cézanne, Van Gogh’s Rain at Auvers and works by Millet, Rembrant, Whistler, Daumier and Carrière.
They could have spent the money elsewhere but they gave it all towards the cultural heritage of Wales.
Thanks to them, Wales has a truly outstanding collection of art.
Diolch yn fawr