Brenda Chamberlain (artist)

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Brenda Irene Chamberlain
Self portrait of Brenda Chamberlain.jpg
Self portrait, 1938
(National Museum Wales)
Born (1912-03-17)March 17, 1912
Bangor, United Kingdom
Died July 11, 1971(1971-07-11) (aged 59)
Bangor, United Kingdom
Nationality Welsh
Education Royal Academy of Arts
Known for Painting, Poetry
Spouse(s) John Petts (m. 1935–1944)

Brenda Irene Chamberlain (17 March 1912 – 11 July 1971) was a Welsh artist, poet and novelist. She also wrote a memoir of the 15 years she spent living on Bardsey Island.

Early life and education[edit]

Brenda Chamberlain on a boat transporting cattle, during a Pilgrimage to Bardsey Island in 1950

Chamberlain was born in Bangor, Gwynedd, the daughter of Francis Thomas Chamberlain and Elsie Cooil Chamberlain. Her father worked for the railway. Her mother served a term on Bangor Borough Council, and was later Mayor of Bangor during World War II.[1] She studied art at the Royal Academy in London.[2]


Tyn-y-mynydd, Mountain Street, Rachub - - 431202

Before the Second World War, Chamberlain moved in with the artist John Petts. They married in 1935, but were divorced in 1944. During their time together, they lived in a cottage at Llanllechid and ran the Caseg Press from their home. Chamberlain made woodcuts and broadsheets for the press.[3] The cottage they shared, Tyn-y-mynydd, now bears a plaque commemorating their work there.[4][5]

Chamberlain also produced prose works, including a novel (The Water Castle, 1964) and a memoir of life at Carreg, Bardsey Island, where she lived and worked from 1947 until 1962.[6]

Chamberlain won the first two Gold Medals awarded by the National Eisteddfod of Wales for Fine Art, in 1951 and 1953.[7]

Later life[edit]

In 1961 she went to live on the Greek island of Hydra, but returned to Wales in 1967. She died in 1971, age 59, in Bangor, after an overdose of sedatives. Her remains were interred at Glanadda Cemetery, Ffordd Caernarfon.[2]

There are artworks by Chamberlain in the collections of National Museum Wales, National Library of Wales, Bangor University, Cyfarthfa Castle and Royal Holloway, University of London.[8] There is a collection of her papers, including sketches, letters, poems, photographs, diaries, and unpublished works, in the National Library of Wales.[9]

Kate Holman published an academic biography of Brenda Chamberlain in 1997.[10] Curator Jill Piercy published another biography of Chamberlain in 2013.[1]


  • The Green Heart (1958)
  • Tide-Race (1962)
  • The Water Castle (1964)
  • A Rope of Vines (1965)
  • Alun Lewis and the Making of the Caseg Broadsheets (1969)
  • Poems with Drawings (1969)


  1. ^ a b Jill Piercy, Brenda Chamberlain: Artist and Writer (Parthian Books 2013). ISBN 9781906998233
  2. ^ a b "Brenda Chamberlain" Wales Arts, BBC Cymru Wales.
  3. ^ Alison Smith, John Petts and the Caseg Press (Ashgate 1999). ISBN 9780754600343
  4. ^ SH6268 : Ty'r mynydd, Mountain Street, Rachub,
  5. ^ "Brenda Chamberlain, 1912-1971" Literature Wales, Writers' Plaques.
  6. ^ "Brenda Chamberlain and Bardsey Island" Archived 5 May 2016 at the Wayback Machine., Bardsey Island Trust.
  7. ^ Gold Medal for Fine Art Archived 30 October 2014 at the Wayback Machine., The National Eisteddfod of Wales. Retrieved 24 October 2014.
  8. ^, Brenda Chamberlain.
  9. ^ Brenda Chamberlain MSS, National Library of Wales.
  10. ^ Kate Holman, Brenda Chamberlain (University of Chicago Press 1997). ISBN 9780708310489

External links[edit]