Peter Prendergast

Peter Prendergast (27 October 1946-14 January 2007) was a Welsh landscape painter. After the death of Sir Kyffin Williams in September 2006, he was recognised as the leading landscape painter in Wales.

Early life
Prendergast was born in Abertridwr, a mining village in the Aber valley near Caerphilly in Glamorgan. His father was a Roman Catholic from Ireland who sought work as a coal miner in Maesteg in south Wales after the 1916 Easter Rising. His two older brothers attended the local grammar school, but he was sent to the local secondary modern, where his art teacher, Gomer Lewis, recognised his artistic talent. With support from the County art adviser, Leslie Moore, he won a County art scholarship to study at the Cardiff School of Art in 1962, despite having no formal academic qualifications.

He moved to the Slade School of Fine Art in 1964, where he studied under Sir William Coldstream, Robyn Denny, Francis Bacon, Jeff Camp, and Euan Uglow. His tutor was Frank Auerbach. He won the Nettleship Prize for Figure Painting in 1967. He met his future wife, Lesley Riding, in his last year at the Slade, and they were married in 1967.

He taught part-time in a school for one year after leaving the Slade, and then studied for a M.A. at Reading University with Terry Frost and Claude Rogers with a view to becoming a teacher. There, he met fellow student and landscape painter Len Tabner who remained a close friend in later life.

He and his wife moved to Bethesda in 1969, a village near Bangor and close to the Penrhyn Quarry. He taught part-time at Liverpool School of Art until 1974, then at a local school, and then at Coleg Menai, but he concentrated more on developing as an artist. He specialised in paintings of the Penrhyn slate quarry, which he described as “the biggest man-made hole in Europe, like Breughel’s Tower of Babel, but in reverse”, and of Snowdonia. His early works have a bruque Expressionist style, almost Cubist. He painted similar views of the towers in Manhattan on a visit to New York in 1993.

He won prizes at the National Eisteddfod in 1975 and 1977. Examples of his paintings are owned by the Contemporary Art Society of Wales, and the Tate Gallery. For some years his work was shown by Agnew’s gallery in London, culminating in a touring exhibition; the foreword to the exhibition catalogue was written by Sister Wendy Beckett, who described him as “a superb colourist and a master of form“.

A “50th Birthday Exhibition” was held at the Boundary Gallery in London in 1996, and a retrospective of his works toured galleries in Wales in 2006, including the Welsh Museum of Modern Art at Machynlleth. The Painter’s Quarry, a collection of critical essays on his work, was also published in 2006; a television profile with the same title appeared on BBC2.

After suffering from poor health in 2006, he died suddenly from a heart attack while walking with his wife near his home in Deiniolen, near Caernarfon in Gwynedd. He was survived by his wife, and their two sons and two daughters.

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