Across our Facebook and Twitter profiles, and on this very blog, you may have noticed a familiar face. Twm Brinley Thomas, has become something of a mascot for us here at the Miners’ Library. Although he’s now commonly seen on our social media profiles, Twm originates in a portrait that hangs over our Issue Desk . Twm is an emblem for us because he represents the human face of industry, mining and the social history of the South Wales coalfields. The purpose of this blog is to shed some light on this figure and the artist that drew him: Cyril Ifold.
(Many thanks to Caryl Roese for providing the information included in the biography below)
Cyril was born in Ystradgynlais in 1922 to a family with an artistic pedigree. His grandfather, Frederick, studied at the Royal Academy in London and was a regular at the Summer Exhibitions. His father, a miner, passed away when he was only eight years old, forcing Cyril provide for the family with jobs like newspaper boy and tinplate factory worker.
As a teenager, he began taking lessons from local retired art teacher Arthur Pawson. Over the next eight years, Ifold trained with Pawson, using anatomical books as instruction. Afterwards, he became a pit-boy at Yniscedwyn Colliery, Ystradgynlais.
During the Second World War, Ifold was still working underground whilst attending evening classes at the Swansea College of Art. He worked under the tuition of portrait painter Alfred Janes but, after leaving, worked only in isolation. Although he was acquainted with Josef Herman, and sought advice, he did not take lessons nor imitate his style. Although disappointed by rejection from the National Eisteddfod and the Royal Academy Summer Exhibitions, Ifold was supported by his family, including his wife Agnella, and David Bell, curator of the Glynn Vivian Art Gallery.
He would often come home from a long shift down the mine and work through the evening. This hard work paid off in the 1950s and 60s; he begun winning awards and regularly taking part in exhibitions. He continued to paint into the 1970s, using a lean-to on his house in Seven Sisters as a studio. He passed away in 1986, aged 64.