Roy Powell obituary | Paint

Welsh artist Roy Powell, who died aged 87, was a distinguished painter in both oils and watercolours, particularly in the tradition of ‘vanitas’ still lifes.

His distinctive paintings, like those of his greatest influence, Cézanne, emerge from a contemplative and intense emotional involvement with the subject. Vanity the paintings, in a philosophical tradition dating back to the 17th century, are a strong affirmation of life as well as a reminder of its ephemeral nature. In Roy’s case, this was expressed through the skulls of sheep, fruit, vases of flowers, books and rich fabrics. The representation of mirrors encouraged a questioning of the familiar. He is also interested in the resonances between form, structure and color. In addition, he paints landscapes and writes articles on painting.

Born in Chepstow, Monmouthshire, he was the son of Winifred Owen, a former maid at Llanover Hall, where his father, Ivor Powell, had been a gardener. Ivor later becomes a policeman and, upon retirement and encouraged by Roy, takes up painting in a naive style.

Roy Powell, Still Life with Folding Mirror and Skull, oil on canvas, 2003, 88cm x 100cm, National Library of Wales, purchased by ACTS. Photography: David Moore

Roy attended the school in Monmouth, where his inspirational art teacher, the Polish exile Otto Maciąg, encouraged him, as well as the school in West Monmouth. Roy was one of many outstanding artists who attended Cardiff College of Art in the 1950s, interrupted, in his case, by national service. Although his quiet, reflective personality never particularly suited him for the profession, he taught at schools in the Midlands and London between 1959 and 1974. Then he moved to the mid-Wales town of Brecon , to teach in high school. A well-known character, he became involved with Brecon Cathedral as a caretaker.

It was in retirement from 1990 that Roy was able to fully blossom as an artist. Although a loyal and long-standing member of the Welsh group, he also joined what was to become the Royal Watercolor Society of Wales. He has curated numerous exhibitions, including at the Brecknock Museum and Art Gallery in 1993, of which I was curator, and, alongside his father’s work, at the National Library of Wales in 1997. Roy had been a close friend ever since. art college with Islwyn Watkins and Ivor Davies, and the latter drew him regularly.

Roy is survived by his partner of 30 years, Jenni Rule, whom he met while preparing for a Brecknock Little theater production. His brother, Geoffrey, predeceased him.

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