Roger Cecil 1942-2015
During his lifetime Roger Cecil’s work was little known except by insightful collectors and fellow artists but he is now widely recognised as one of the most remarkable artists Wales has produced.
Born in Abertillery in 1942, he lived in the same terraced house throughout his life. He was a star student at Newport College of Art and in 1963 he won a scholarship to the Royal College of Art but he walked out to devote himself to painting independently. He worked as a casual labourer while producing art of extraordinary beauty and sophistication, as documented in the BBC film A Quiet Rebel in 1964.
Many of his pictures evoke the scars of the mining valleys amid the grandeur of nature. He loved to spend days at a time on the hilltops and often walked the 25 miles to the Brecon Beacons. His later works inspired by the layered symbolism of African art helped him to meld figure and landscape in one semi-abstract vision.
When his body was found after a police search in 2015 his death made headlines. The artist Mary Lloyd Jones said: ‘I would rate him as one of the best painters in Britain, or even anywhere.’ David Buckman wrote that among 10,000 artists for his Dictionary of Artists in Britain Roger Cecil was his ‘most impressive discovery’. Over twenty of his works are now in public collections, including the National Museum and the National Library.
Roger Cecil: A Secret Artist by Peter Wakelin was published in 2017.