Derwent Lees 'A Welsh Landscape'.Location,The Arenig Fawr outlier of Pen Tyrau.
Of all the mountains in Wales, for me, Arenig Fawr is easily the King..or perhaps it should be Queen?...of Welsh peaks. This brooding massif surrounded by the rough bounds of the Migneint, encompasses everything that is mysterious and romantic in mountain lore. It even harbours within its bounds, a contemporary human tragedy and in that, an event that can teach us something about the folly and ignorance of those who have political power. I refer of course to the destruction of the Treweryn valley and the village of Capel Celyn to create a pointless and unnecessary reservoir . An action which I blogged about a couple of years ago in The Drowning Season.
Anywhere except we know it has to be either under Arenig or under the climbing crags of the Moelwyns where his now ruined cottage is located. For years I believed that the cottage of Llwynynthyl was in Cwm Orthin, the vast open valley which most walkers heading up to Moelwyn Mawr pass through. However, an art programme, ‘Framing Wales', on BBC Wales presented by Kim Howells- the fascinating former NUM secretary, Labour MP, Culture Secretary in the Blair government and rock climber- who offered a different location to Llwynynthyl when he scaled an easy climb on one of the Moelwyn cliffs. After completing the climb, he pointed to the ruins of Llwynynthyl which sits above..or is it below?..the road up to the Stwlan Dam.
The Red Feather:1911 Augustus John
I’m pretty sure that this is on the western slopes of Arenig Fawr under a crag known as Craig Hyrddod,( Crag of the Rams) less than a mile from Nant Ddu. In 1997 I made a first climb on Hyrddod which due to a misinterpretation, I called ‘Hurricane Wall’, thinking that the Welsh name translated as storm or tempest. Huge boulders abound hereabouts and there is a curious shrine at the base of the cliff. Another climb I did here I called Pagan Wall.
The Orange Apron:1912: Augustus John
This has to be a Tan y Griseau painting. Looking up to the high point of Moelwyn Bach from the lower slopes of Moel yr Hydd with the slate mine levels clearly visible.
Reverie:1914 and Doreilia in a Green Dress:1914
Confusingly, Reverie is also referred to as ‘The Tired Climber’ and ‘Doreilia in Cornwall’. Most certainly this is not Cornwall but is it a Tan y Griseau painting or an Arenig work? I originally thought it had to be the lower slopes of Moel yr Hydd above the cottage, Llwynynthyl, but it could be just slightly north of the Red Feather location beneath the saddle which connects Pen Tyrau with Arenig Fawr. Both paintings show what could be a stone wall which suggests Arenig.
Lily on the mountainside:1911
This has to be looking north east from Moel yr Hydd towards Nyth y Gigfran and the mouth of Cwm Orthin. Climbers will recognize it as the location of the popular venue, Craig y Clipau.
Lyndra by the Pool: 1914-Derwent Lees.
This is a work by the Australian painter, Derwent Lees. A lesser figure in the Arenig School, very much influenced by Augustus John. Location, the lower slopes of the Arenig outlier,Pen Tyrau.
Lyndra by the rocks:1914.Derwent Lees
Lyndra appears to be Lees’ muse very much in the manner of John’s Dorelia. Here, the artist has placed his model in the lee of what appears a sizable cliff.The light and shade would suggest that it is the basalt quarry just lower down the Pen Tyrau mountainside and close to Arenig village.
So....a few educated stabs at the locations of these paintings.Anyone with their own theories,feel free to get in touch.
Anyone interested in the Arenig School then I recommend Michael Holroyd’s monumental biography of Augustus John which covers the period in great detail.