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Press release

Works by Rex Whistler and Kyffin Williams are among some unseen items secured for the future at Plas Newydd

National Trust staff member holding Rex Whistler's portrait of Caroline Paget portrait at Plas Newydd
Rex Whistler; Caroline Paget portrait at Plas Newydd | © ©National Trust Iolo Penri

Following private negotiations with the Anglesey family, National Trust Cymru have purchased six items that will enable Plas Newydd House and Garden to share more about its history and local links. These items have been kept in the Anglesey family’s personal collection until now and will be made available to the public for the first time. Another four items, which went under the hammer at Sotheby’s Auction on 11 April have also been secured, of significant importance to Plas Newydd.

Over the centuries Plas Newydd has played host to and inspired many artists, notably Rex Whistler and his fantastical mural on display in the dining room. As well as a commissioned artist during his time at Plas Newydd, he was also a much-welcomed guest of the 6th Marquess’s family.

Dominic Chennell, Curator at National Trust Cymru said;

“Whistler’s unrequited love for Lady Caroline Paget, daughter of 6th Marquess of Anglesey was no secret, as love letters addressed to Lady Caroline are cared for at Plas Newydd along with tantalising clues in Whistler’s 17.5 metres long mural.”

“She was some-what of a muse to Whistler, with several portraits painted of her at Plas Newydd. It’s less frequent to find such an illustrated portrait by Whistler, with many of his illustrations commissioned for advertising, and portraits painted. However, a charming, informal, ephemera portrait drawing of Lady Caroline has been in the Anglesey family’s private collection and unseen to the public until now.”

Thanks to the recent purchase, National Trust Cymru plan to exhibit the portrait which will expand on this relationship between Whistler and the Paget family.

Plas Newydd also plan to explore links to renowned Welsh artist Sir John Kyffin Williams through the purchase of three original watercolours and an oil painting. Kyffin is regarded as one of the defining artists of Wales during the 20th century and had a personal connection to Plas Newydd, being born in Llangefni, and later lived on the Plas Newydd estate.

He was a close friend to the Anglesey family – with the 7th Marquess and Marchioness ardent supporters of his work as they encouraged his painting and supported him as an artist - buying and collecting many of his works before he rose to fame. Kyffin was also known to have encouraged Alexander Paget, the current Lord Anglesey to become an artist himself.

Dominic continues;

“We’ve long wanted to explore this interesting and personal history of Kyffin Williams and his links to Plas Newydd and are delighted that these will be our first paintings by Kyffin Williams on public display in the collection for the National Trust.”

Another item secured is a canvas painting by Nicholas Thomas Dall of Beaudesert House which was the Anglesey family’s estate in Staffordshire, where they lived until it became impossible to keep and was demolished in 1935.

Dominic continues;

“We don’t have a significant image of Beaudesert House, and therefore this rather lovely 18th century painting will be the first time for us to have an engaging picture of the-house-that-is-no-more.

“One of the key stories at Plas Newydd is the decline of wealth, and the breaking up of estates that led to Plas Newydd becoming a primary residence of the Anglesey family in the 1930s. Our current collections do not display the grandeur of this house making it difficult to portray how significant the choice of location became. We can now illustrate this story and bring greater context to the narratives of loss and decisions made in developing Plas Newydd as the main residence.”

Alex Paget, 8th Marquess of Anglesey said;

“These items vividly illustrate connections between my family and Plas Newydd at various times in the past. Beaudesert was sadly destroyed before the National Trust was active in preserving heritage, but the picture shows it in its heyday.

“The Rex Whistler drawing of my Aunt Caroline on Plas Newydd headed paper is a delightful memo of life at Plas Newydd in the interwar years.

“And the Kyffin Williams paintings continue the theme of the connection between the Paget family and artists into the second half of the 20th century. Kyffin lived on the Estate and was a close friend of my parents, who were great admirers and collectors of his work. I am so glad that these pictures have been added permanently to the National Trust’s collection at Plas Newydd.”

The purchase has been made possible through the Monument 85 Fund. A fund supported by the National Trust set up by the late Simon Sainsbury.