Maurice Sheppard, PPRWS, NEAC, MA(RCA), is a significant British landscape painter. Born at Llangwm in Pembrokeshire in 1947 he was taught by Ronald Lowe at Haverfordwest Grammar School and went on to study painting at Loughborough, Kingston upon Thames and latterly the Royal College of Art. Here he studied under Ruskin Spear, Donald Hamilton Fraser, Robert Buhler and Carel Weight.
Elected to the Royal Watercolour Society in 1974, he became a Trustee from 1983 – 1995, serving as President 1984 – 87, and retiring to Honorary Status in 2002. In the year 2000 he was elected to Membership of the New English Art Club.
Exhibiting oils at the Royal Academy of Arts Summer Exhibition from 1971 – 2013, Sheppard has had a remarkable 70 paintings selected and hung in those years.
He has works in the Victoria and Albert Museum; National Museum and Art Galleries of Wales, Cardiff; Birmingham City Museum and Art Gallery; Carlisle City Museum and Art Gallery – Tullie House; Beecroft Museum and Art Gallery, Southend on Sea; Topsham Museum, Exeter; Glynn Vivian Museum and Art Gallery, Swansea; Contemporary Art Society for Wales; National Library of Wales, Aberystwyth; University of Wales – Aberystwyth; Royal Watercolour Society Diploma Collection. Corporate Collections - the MBNA International Bank of America own 11 works in oil.
In October 2007 the “Casgliad Maurice Sheppard PPRWS Collection” was founded when the artist presented his “Private Collection” to the National Library of Wales, at Aberystwyth. This consists of more than 600 pieces of drawing, watercolour and print by artists working during the years 1750 to date.
“Maurice Sheppard uses a meticulous method of twig-and-leaf realism to demonstrate the complexity and mystery of those hidden corners of landscape that man seldom visits. In these, undergrowth, overgrowth, freshness and decay, struggle together and make natural structures that are both sinister and magical. Sheppard’s actual paint surfaces are not magical – the minute flicking gives realism – but not a sense of unique apprehension – but the sites chosen, and so faithfully recorded, make one well aware of his commitment.” Paddy Kitchen. The Times. 1976.
Two artists with a passion for Wales’ wilder places exhibited together for the first time in September 2013 at the Attic Gallery. Jenny White spoke to them both for the Western Mail.
They may paint markedly different scenery but Maurice Sheppard and Aled Prichard-Jones share a passion for the Welsh wilderness. The latest exhibition at Swansea’s Attic Gallery – their first ever joint show – evokes the sense of stillness that comes from being alone with nature but never ventures into twee prettiness; this is real Wales, unkempt and untamed.
A significant British landscape painter who became the first Welsh President of the Royal Watercolour Society and has work in numerous public collections, Maurice Sheppard’s particular focus is Wales in winter. “I’m probably after a sense of spiritual calm – something that calms the soul, makes you feel empowered,” he says. Simplicity and plainness are watchwords for him; he feels an empathy with the Essenes – an ancient Jewish sect whose spirituality was linked to time spent in the wilderness.
“I feel as though I’ve spent most of my life in the wilderness,” he says. “People are still very afraid of the countryside - the prickliness of it, the bareness of it. I feel like going out and painting in the wilderness was my purpose. I won’t allow myself summer. I’ve got to stick to the rigorous line of winter – that’s my job.”
His abiding fascination is the tangled, wooded lanes and riverside paths not far from his home near Haverfordwest – the area he grew up in and returned to in 2003. This month’s exhibition is a significant one because, at the age of 66, he has decided to stop creating large scale paintings; the bigger paintings in the show will be his last of that size.
“The physicality of dealing with big work is something I don’t want to do any more,” he says. It marks a pivotal point in a career that began over 40 years ago when he finished his postgraduate studies at the Royal College of Art, where his tutors had included greats such as Ruskin Spear, Donald Hamilton Fraser, Robert Buhler and Carel Weight. Prior to that he had studied at Kingston upon Thames where his skilled draughtsmanship clashed with the focus of his tutors, several of whom tried to force his work in a more abstract expressionst direction.
“I was a very unhappy student until one of the tutors, a man called Alfred Heyworth, came up to me one day and said: ‘You can draw really can’t you – why are you messing about doing this stuff?’ He made me go back to drawing from nature which I’d done as a teenager,” he says.
Heyworth’s advice chimed with that of Sheppard’s tutors at the Royal College of Art, notably the renowned painter Carel Weight.
“The most important thing he taught me was being your own person,” he says. “It was under him that David Hockney was David Hockney and Ken Howard was Ken Howard. He liked individuality.”
His dedication to a relatively traditional approach is mirrored in Prichard-Jones’s pastel paintings.
“Our work complements each other – we are talking the same sort of language,” says Prichard-Jones. “It’s got nothing to do with creating art for art’s sake, which I find grates with me – I just like to paint what’s there and if I paint it well and work at it properly I think that’s enough.”
Prichard-Jones’ career as an exhibiting artist began in earnest when he retired from working as an architect in 2000. He discovered pastels by accident after being given a free set with a Reader’s Digest book, and quickly discovered that they suited his approach to painting.
“The range of colours is great and they’re so quick and easy to use – you can just pick one up and start painting right away. I like painting quickly; I find that using soft pastels gives me that freedom, and by painting quickly you usually end up with a freer end result rather than getting too stiff and technical. I like that spontaneity that comes through in the painting.”
Much of his work springs from walks through Snowdonia; the aim of the paintings is to communicate his passion for the scenery, connecting with the viewers’ own experience of that place or inspiring them to go and visit it.
“I hope there’s a sense of place because I like to paint things that people can relate to,” he says. “I try to put across the sense of majesty and magic you get from Snowdonia; lakes like Llyn Idwal, for instance, are very mysterious, quiet places and that’s what I try and convey in the painting. Other times it’s very stormy, fierce and rugged.”
Viewed side by side, the two artists’ work presents a journey through some of Wales’ most wildly beautiful scenery. It invites you to share their passions; as Prichard-Jones puts it, “I hope people enjoy them and that they will share some of my obsession with the beauty of Welsh landscapes.”
The show ran at the Attic Gallery, 37 Pocketts Wharf, Swansea from September 21 to October 12 2013.