Breconshire images by Thomas Jones and Colonel Joshua Gosselin
Updated: Jun 14, 2018
Thomas Jones, who would become one of Britain's leading landscape artists, decided in 1775 to create and publish 25 Views in South Wales. Two of those views are set in Breconshire.
His view of Brecknock Castle shows on the right Castle Bridge over the Honddu with the Priory Church tower behind. Above are the ruins of the castle and the Ely Tower. In the foreground are Brecon's own Daphne and Chloe conversing in the foreground, an obvious tribute to all the Italian landscapes of the time which are settings for mythological tales.
His setting of Brecknock Mere shows the ruins of Blaenyvni Castle , which is now completely engulfed in woodland, with Llangors Lake (Brecknock Mere) behind it. Soon after completing these views Thomas Jones left Wales to travel and paint in Italy where his works were collected by Englishmen on the Grand Tour.
Clerk of the Royal court of Guernsey, Colonel Joshua Gosselin was not a professional artist but a keen botanist. His pictures, clearly painted for his own enjoyment have great charm and show buildings in the surrounding landscape with the hedge rows clearly delineated. His first trip to Wales was made in 1781 but we don't know why he made repeated visits to Wales, staying often in Abergavenny.
The pictures only came to light when a large collection was auctioned at Bonham's in 1999. Julian Mitchell has written about his paintings on the Wye for the Monmouthshire Antiquary and it was he who showed me titles of works that Gosselin had done in the Usk valley. These are still in the Guernsey Museum, which Gosselin helped to found and it is thanks to the curator, Lisa Burton, who photographed them at my request that we can see them now.
One of Gosselins' most interesting watercolours shows the recently discovered mosaic found at Llanfrynach in a Roman Villa and Bath House. Covered over after the excavation it has never been rediscovered since.
The only other record was kept by the antiquarian Rector of Llanbedr, Thomas Payne, who lent it to Theophilus Jones for inclusion in his History of Breconshire (1804) where it can be seen as an engraving.