Sansom & Company, £25 each

Book review: Gwilym Prichard, Claudia Williams, both By Harry Heuser and Robert Meyrick

A perfect picture of when love and art collide

Jackson Pollock and Lee Krasner, Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivera, Barbara Hepworth and Ben Nicholson, Sonia Terk and Robert Delaunay,  the Koonings, the Arps …  artist couples fascinate gallery-goers and collectors. And while the New York 1949 exhibition cheerfully entitled “Artists: Man and Wife” would raise eyebrows now, those who have created in tandem present an extra dimension. Do the two visibly influence each other, or emphatically diverge? Does one become better known (Pollock), or have a longer career curve (Hepworth), or do they fuse their identities in a shared style and surname (the Delaunays)?

Gwilym Prichard (born 1931) and Claudia Williams (born 1933), now in their 60th year of marriage and working still in their beloved Wales, have forged complementary careers born out of shared parenting, impecuniousness, travels and travails. Their work could not be more different. Prichard (he was born Pritchard but dropped the “t” when he found himself exhibiting with an artist of the same name – we are not related) has never tired of the landscape of his native North Wales and rarely peoples his dense, craggy, often formidable landscapes. This makes the scale of mountains and outcrops ambiguous, so that they become textural rather than topographical.

Williams, on the other hand, with four small children at home in the Sixties, developed her distinctive, Matissean, decorative tableaux of family, friends and communities, with so many figures and human activities recorded that they tumble over each other and out of the picture. Her Seven Ages of Women (1993) or Christmas Presents (1986) are at once universal, but also the narrative of her own life.

Both fell for art in their teens – Prichard captivated by the school-room Millais print The Boyhood of Raleigh, and, thumbing through an encyclopedia, discovering Picasso’s Maya with Doll. Williams nominated Gaugin’s Women With Mangoes “her favourite picture” at 15 – that artist’s influence is in her Sleeping (1986), a happy-ending version of his Nevermore.

“Love and art hit me at the same time,” recalls Prichard of the moment Williams moved to North Wales. He shared his watercolours, she her life drawings; she was academic, he more intuitive, messier. Rheumatic fever during National Service had put him into hospital where he learned embroidery: his paintings have always had a three-dimensional quality. And he has an eye for unexpected beauty – a passer-by once told him he was “painting the wrong view”.

Getting by in a council house, with no car, the couple struck lucky in the Sixties when sales of their art were brisk in the Heal’s contemporary art gallery, the Mansard. But the authors are dismayed that Prichard is still not represented, bizarrely, in his country’s national collection at Cardiff. Stays in Santorini and Provence, an unhappy teaching job for Prichard leading to alcoholism, recovery and a ripe old age … these affectionate biographies trace parallel but intersecting lives. Prichard paints places, Williams paints times: you can’t conceive of one without the other.

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Thomas carried Lady Edith over the flames in her bedroom in Downton Abbey series five

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Ben Affleck as Nick Dunne, seated next to a picture of his missing wife Amy, played by Rosamund Pike

film
Arts and Entertainment
Rachel, Chandler and Ross try to get Ross's sofa up the stairs in the famous 'Pivot!' scene

Friends 20th anniversary
Arts and Entertainment
Lena Dunham

books
Arts and Entertainment
A bit rich: Maggie Smith in Downton Abbey

There’s revolution in the air, but one lady’s not for turning

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Chloe-Jasmine Whicello impressed the judges and the audience at Wembley Arena with a sultry performance
TVReview: Who'd have known Simon was such a Roger Rabbit fan?
Arts and Entertainment
Nick Frost will star in the Doctor Who 2014 Christmas special

TV
Arts and Entertainment
A spell in the sun: Emma Stone and Colin Firth star in ‘Magic in the Moonlight’
filmReview: Magic In The Moonlight
Arts and Entertainment
Friends is celebrating its 20th anniversary this year
TV
Arts and Entertainment
Ben Whishaw is replacing Colin Firth as the voice of Paddington Bear

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Actor and director Zach Braff

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Maisie Williams plays 'bad ass' Arya Stark in Game of Thrones

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Liam Neeson said he wouldn't

TV
Arts and Entertainment

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Meera Syal was a member of the team that created Goodness Gracious Me

TV
Arts and Entertainment
The former Doctor Who actor is to play a vicar is search of a wife

film
Arts and Entertainment

music
Arts and Entertainment
Pointless host Alexander Armstrong will voice Danger Mouse on CBBC

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Pharrell dismissed the controversy surrounding

music
Arts and Entertainment
Jack Huston is the new Ben-Hur

film
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Secret politics of the weekly shop

    The politics of the weekly shop

    New app reveals political leanings of food companies
    Beam me up, Scottie!

    Beam me up, Scottie!

    Celebrity Trekkies from Alex Salmond to Barack Obama
    Beware Wet Paint: The ICA's latest ambitious exhibition

    Beware Wet Paint

    The ICA's latest ambitious exhibition
    Pink Floyd have produced some of rock's greatest ever album covers

    Pink Floyd have produced some of rock's greatest ever album covers

    Can 'The Endless River' carry on the tradition?
    Sanctuary for the suicidal

    Sanctuary for the suicidal

    One mother's story of how London charity Maytree helped her son with his depression
    A roller-coaster tale from the 'voice of a generation'

    Not That Kind of Girl:

    A roller-coaster tale from 'voice of a generation' Lena Dunham
    London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice. In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence

    London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice

    In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence
    Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with Malcolm McLaren

    Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with McLaren

    Designer 'felt pressured' into going out with Sex Pistols manager
    Jourdan Dunn: Model mother

    Model mother

    Jordan Dunn became one of the best-paid models in the world
    Apple still coolest brand – despite U2 PR disaster

    Apple still the coolest brand

    Despite PR disaster of free U2 album
    Scottish referendum: The Yes vote was the love that dared speak its name, but it was not to be

    Despite the result, this is the end of the status quo

    Boyd Tonkin on the fall-out from the Scottish referendum
    Manolo Blahnik: The high priest of heels talks flats, Englishness, and why he loves Mary Beard

    Manolo Blahnik: Flats, Englishness, and Mary Beard

    The shoe designer who has been dubbed 'the patron saint of the stiletto'
    The Beatles biographer reveals exclusive original manuscripts of some of the best pop songs ever written

    Scrambled eggs and LSD

    Behind The Beatles' lyrics - thanks to Hunter Davis's original manuscript copies
    'Normcore' fashion: Blending in is the new standing out in latest catwalk non-trend

    'Normcore': Blending in is the new standing out

    Just when fashion was in grave danger of running out of trends, it only went and invented the non-trend. Rebecca Gonsalves investigates
    Dance’s new leading ladies fight back: How female vocalists are now writing their own hits

    New leading ladies of dance fight back

    How female vocalists are now writing their own hits