Benefactor Derek Williams' art goes on display

Derek Williams at a Christmas exhibition at the Howard Roberts Gallery, Cardiff
Image caption Derek Williams at a Christmas exhibition at the Howard Roberts Gallery, Cardiff

Derek Mathias Tudor Williams is a name probably not familiar to many in Wales.

But as he is one of the biggest benefactors to the national art collection since sisters Gwendoline and Margaret Davies it should be.

Williams was passionate about collecting modern British art and since his death in 1984 his trust has continued what he started.

Now the Cardiff surveyor's contribution to visual arts in Wales is being recognised in a new exhibition.

During his life, Williams' art collecting passion was largely kept secret and many of the 71 works he amassed lay hidden in drawers.

Image caption One of the works brought by the trust since Derek Williams' death

Melissa Munro, the museum's Derek Williams Curator of Modern and Contemporary Art, said the collector was "quite an interesting person".

"His family was quite well off. He came from a well-to-do background," she said.

"He was very gregarious but also an intensely private man. Among his many interests as well as art collecting were golf, opera and photography.

"But he kept his passion for art under wraps and even his friends did not know about it until after his death."

Bachelor Williams joined the family's well-established surveying practice.

He began collecting back in the 1950s.

His interest in modern British art attracted him to the work of John Piper and Ceri Richards whose art forms most of his collection.

Other major figures of mid 20th Century British art - including Ben Nicholson, Henry Moore and L.S.Lowy- also figure.

As part of his legacy to the national museum, Williams' stipulated that half of his collection should be on display at any one time.

The Derek Williams Trust, set up after the collector's death, is committed to looking after, enhancing and displaying the legacy.

As such it provides support for the acquisition of post 1900-works of art at the museum and also contributes to the acquisition of contemporary ceramics, a more recent development by the trust.

Image caption Josef Herman's Three Welsh Miners, 1966, from the original collection

Examples of both the original collection amassed by the collector, and others purchased by the trust are included in this exhibition, the first to highlight Williams' contribution to the museum for more than 20 years.

Ms Munro said it "demonstrates their unique contribution to the visual arts in Wales".

She added: "The generous support of the Derek Williams Trust has also transformed the museum's collection of 20th Century art and parallels the great bequests of French Impressionist art made by Gwendoline and Margaret Davies a generation earlier."

The trust is also supporting the refurbishment of National Museum Cardiff's new contemporary art galleries - the final phase of Wales's National Museum of Art, which will open in July.

There will be a dedicated space for the collection in the new galleries.

The Welsh Assembly Government has given £3.25m towards the Welsh national museum of art.

Heritage Minister Alun Ffred Jones praised the Derek Williams Trust's contribution.

He said: "It is extremely important that Wales has a fitting home to display the wonderful art of Wales."

Lifetime to Legacy: The Derek Williams Trust Collection runs from 25 March.

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