The interior of City Hall contains many fine paintings. At present there are 25 on display throughout the building.
The art collection may be seen in the Entrance Hall, Marble Hall, Function Rooms and corridoors to the first floor.
The paintings are from a variety of sources, including private and business donations and bequests.The City Hall art collection spans a period of over 150 years. The earliest painting is “The Bay of Naples” by John Glover (1787 – 1849), located in Room L on the first floor.
The Fulton Bequest was established in 1907, at the request of Mrs Annie Fulton of Penarth. She was the widow of Alderman Andrew Fulton who had been Mayor of Cardiff from 1884-5. In Mrs Fulton’s will, she bequeathed “Unto the Lord Mayor, Aldermen and Citizens of the City for the purpose of placing in their City Hall her oil painting of the Holy Loch, Scotland by Mr James Greenless, free of legacy duty” (This painting is to be seen in function room D). In addition to her bequest of the painting, Mrs Fulton left one quarter of her residuary estate to the City of Cardiff “For or towards the completion of the decoration of the interior of the City Hall, and the purchase of paintings, statuary and other works of Art”. After settlement of the estate, the City received £3,327 and the following five paintings were acquired:
Penry Williams was born in Merthyr Tydfil in 1798, the son of a house painter. Having worked with his father for some years, he entered the Royal Academy schools and studied under Fuseli. In 1827 he moved to Rome where he remained until his death in 1885.
This painting is characteristic of Williams’ taste for romantic paintings of Italian life. With a still-smoking Vesuvius in the background, an ox-cart is decorated in honour of a festival of the Madonna and is accompanied by peasants in picturesque costume, processing in celebration. This is regarded as Perry Williams’ materpiece, and was exhibited in the Royal Academy in 1837. It is one of the finest paintings in the City Hall collection.
This painting bears the inscription: “For every woe a tear may claim, except an erring woman’s shame.” BYRON
The penitent, a young woman, has returned to find the old cottage deserted, whilst her re-appearance arouses local curiosity. Samuel Luke Fildes was one of the foremost painters of ‘social realist subjects, and his work often sentimentalises the plight of the poor.
Fildes was born in Liverpool in 1843, and from the age of seventeen studies at the Royal Academy School. He then went on to work as an illustrator for “The Graphic” magazine, where his work caught the attention of Charles Dickens. Fildes went on to illustrate Dickens’ “Mystery of Edwin Drood”. Popular and successful, Fildes was also a notable portrait painter. He was knighted in 1906 and made KCVO in 1918. THe artist dies in 1927.
The painting is presently located in the Marble Hall and was purchased through the Fulton Bequest. The choice of such a work very much reflects popular taste of the Edwardian period.
Joseph Farquharson was an enormously successful artist of the late Victorian and Edwardian era. This is an excellent example of his style – scenes of rustic life, often moonlit or as in this case, glowing in late winter sun. Farquharson was recognised for the realism and detail of his outstanding snow scenes. His works were frequently copied, and therefore became widely known, and enormously popular with the public.
‘The Shadow’ was painted in 1909 and is a characteristic example of the artist’s style. Blair Leighton specialised in historical, but especially medieval genre scenes. Born in 1853, he regularly exhibited at the Royal Academy, and his best works usually depict romantic couples such as these. Here, a young knight departing for battle, has his shadowed rofile traced by a fair maiden. The dramatic lighting and most photographic realism makes this a fine example of lair Leighton’s work.
This was the final painting to be acquired through the funds of the Fulton Bequest, and was painted in 1910. It actually depicts a scene three years earlier, when the Lord Mayor, Alderman William Crossman was knighted by King Edward VII on the occasion of his visit to Cardiff. This marked a moment of enormous local significance, as the King and Queen were in the City in order to open The queen Alexandra Dock, which was the final and largest dock in the port.
The painter, William Hatherell was born in 1855. Hatherell was well known for his atmospheric paintings of literary, figurative and historical subjects. The choice of subject reflects the Council’s immense pride in this occasion, when it was felt that Royal approval had been bestowed upon the enterprise of the City. The artist died in London in 1928.