Curnow Vosper (1866-1942)

Vosper produced two iconic images of Welsh costume, both of the same person, wearing a Welsh hat. Salem (1908), includes four women in Welsh hats in the chapel and Market Day in Old Wales includes a woman in a Welsh hat preparing her goods for sale. Although the cottage door isn’t shown, it seems likely that anyone wearing a Welsh hat would have to bend down considerably to pass through the door frame.


Salem, 1908. Lady Lever Art Gallery, Port Sunlight

This iconic painting was extremely popular during the 20th century. Copies were given away in exchange for tokens from 7 lbs of Sunlight soap. In 1937, Sir Ifan ab Owen purchased copies to distribute to Urdd members at 6d each, and it was reproduced as the cover of Cymru Fydd calendars in 1950, 1956 and 1957.

The watercolour study for this is in the National Library (Framed, PE3757) 27.3 x 20.5 cms, and a pencil sketch is in Cyfarthfa Museum and Art Gallery, Merthyr. All the four hats represented were based on the same one, lent by Elin Edwards of Chapel House, Cefncymerau.

Much has been written about Salem, in particular Williams, Tal, (1991), Salem – Y Llun a’r Llan – Painting and Chapel; Lord, Peter, ‘A National Icon, S Curnow Vosper’s Salem’, Planet, Feb/March, 1988, pp. 14-19.

Market Day in Old Wales  The kitchen is that of Wiliam Sion and Owen Sion, two bachelors, and their sister Mari at Carleg Coch, Llanfair. Vosper used the same kitchen for a painting of Ann Lloyd nursing a baby. (National Museum of Wales, Cardiff)

Vosper also drew the interior of a Welsh cottage (Bebb, Richard, Welsh Furniture, 1250-1950, (2009), vol. 2, p. 171, no. 964)