Winter in Port Talbot

Colin Gard Allen

Welsh ( b.1926 - d.1987 )

Winter in Port Talbot

  • Oil on canvas
  • Signed lower right

Image size 19.9 inches x 29.9 inches ( 50.5cm x 76cm )
Frame size 23.2 inches x 33.5 inches ( 59cm x 85cm )

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Sold by Big Sky Fine Art; this original oil painting by Colin Allen, dating from the 1950s.
The painting is presented and supplied in a later frame dating from the 1980s.

Colin Gard Allen is known as an acclaimed Welsh painter and illustrator, although he lived half his life in England. He studied at Cardiff School of Art from 1942-44, where he was taught by Ceri Richards. Then after war service in the Far East he resumed his studies at the Royal College of Art 1949-52. He then entered the Royal College of Art as an illustrator but spent a large proportion of time in the Painting School. He was awarded a first-class honours degree and a Major Travelling scholarship from the Painting department. This took him to Spain, Sicily, North Africa and Italy. His tutors in the college were Edward Bawden, John Nash, John Minton, Carel Weight and Ruskin Spear.

In his earlier years Allen may be described as an industrial painter, as his work referred mainly to the docklands of Barry and Cardiff and the mining valleys of Wales, and his palette was somewhat sombre. This lightened considerably when he began to refer back to his travelling experiences.

Allen moved to Cumbria to teach, and remained there for the rest of his life. He worked at Carlisle College, where he was the Head of Fine Art from 1959-66 and the Head of Extra Mural Studies from 1967-84. Although he lived for the latter part of his life adjacent to the English Lake District, he did not particularly refer to this in his work. His paintings were very personal in style and at heart he considered himself a Welsh Romantic painter. Indeed, he had made an important contribution to the flowering of Welsh painting in the late 1940s and early 1950s. He said he had no interest in the visual arts as a vehicle for political or social comment, but responded simply to his particular environment, aiming to capture the essence of these. His priorities were always good drawing, composition and sound technique, and he installed these in his students too. He drew constantly, every day until one week before his death.

Allen contributed illustrations to a number of publications, the most significant being the B.B.C. Wales Learning Welsh series and the History of Carlisle celebrating the Octo -Centenary of the city. He was commissioned to produce paintings for the Mayoral rooms in Carlisle Civic Centre and numerous portraits.

Allen was a member of the South Wales Group 1955-59. He was a regular exhibitor in both one person shows and in groups, including John Berger’s Looking Forward exhibition at the Royal Academy, the World Cultural Exhibition, Philadelphia 1952, the Whitechapel Art Gallery, London and the Royal Academy Summer Exhibitions. His works are also in the Glynn Vivian Art Gallery, Swansea and the National Museum and Gallery of Wales. His works have been purchased by the Welsh Arts Council.

This original oil on canvas is a grim industrial scene of life in winter in one of Wales’ grittiest towns, Port Talbot. A town synonymous with steel making throughout the 20th century and still to this day. It depicts a snow- covered road, with several figures, chatting and walking, wrapped up against the cold. There are crude light industrial style buildings on the side of the road. A figure on a bicycle passes building, from which we catch a glimpse of the lights and warmth within. At the side of the road there are telegraph poles, wires and railway signals, dark against the sky. In the background, we see the chimneys of the famous steelworks, belching out their smoke into the sky. The sulphur in the atmosphere is shown in streaks of yellow and orange across the sky, through which a pale sun struggles to shine.