The Glynn Vivian
Art Gallery

The Glynn Vivian Art Gallery: History

The Art Gallery is named after its founder and principal benefactor, Richard Glynn Vivian (1835–1910), the fourth son of John Henry Vivian, owner of the largest copper works in Swansea. Unlike his father and older brothers, who had a scientific education, Glynn Vivian went to Cambridge and gained an arts degree. On his father's death in 1855, Glynn Vivian inherited a quarter share in Vivian & Sons, but chose not to be involved in running the firm. Instead he pursued his principal interests of foreign travel and the arts.

Receiving an income from the family business allowed Glynn Vivian to indulge his love of art collecting. He became a serious collector of paintings and china. He recorded his purchases in his diary, meticulously noting price and provenance, and often including a tiny but detailed sketch.

In 1898, aged 63, Glynn Vivian returned to Swansea and bought Sketty Hall, on which he lavished money and affection. By 1902 his sight began to fail and he became almost totally blind. This affliction had a profound effect on him and his later years were devoted to charity.

In 1905 Glynn Vivian offered to leave his art collection to Swansea and build a gallery to house it. His offer was not immediately accepted, as there were concerns about the maintenance costs, which the town would have to meet. He renewed his offer in 1908; after a poll of ratepayers, it was accepted. He laid the foundation stone on 14th May 1909 and building work began. The gallery was opened in July 1911, but sadly Glynn Vivian did not live to take part in the opening ceremony, which was performed by his brother, Graham.


Glynn Vivian
The Glynn Vivian Art Gallery 2009
© photo. City & County of Swansea


The Glynn Vivian Art Gallery: Redevelopment

The Glynn Vivian Art Gallery reopened in October after undergoing a major redevelopment project. This was funded by a grant from the Welsh Assembly Government, together with contributions from the Arts Council of Wales, Heritage Lottery Fund and City & County of Swansea.

As a result of this exciting project the Gallery will provide a much-improved service and visitor experience. The new features include a complete modernisation of the 1911 Grade II listed building, a new entrance, shop and café at street level and an increased space for the display of collections and exhibitions. A new glazed structure now links the 1911 building with the 1974 gallery extension.

Also the existing education facilities have been upgraded to enhance the successful work carried out with schools and colleges, and a new passenger lift allows full access to all areas of the Gallery.

The Glynn Vivian opened on 14 October with a wide range of exhibitions and displays, including Leonardo drawings and contemporary work.

On 15 October a colourful Parade was made through Swansea from the YMCA to the Gallery for the public opening, which included artists and members of the public.


Glynn Vivian
The New Glynn Vivian Art Gallery Facade 2016
© photo. Andrew Green 2016
About the Friends
© Friends of the Glynn Vivian Art Gallery 2017 | Reg. Charity No. 516492