Island Man (The Bardsey Boy), signed and dated 1948, belongs to a small body of work she created on Bardsey Island. She spent 15 years between 1947-62 on this small, rugged place off the Llyn Peninsula in Gwynedd.
It had been shown in a Mostyn Gallery touring exhibition in 1988 when the work was owned by a family in north Wales and was later loaned by the vendor’s father for a Bangor exhibition in 2007.
The sitter has been identified by Jill Piercy, author of Brenda Chamberlain – Artist and Writer (2019), as the artist’s partner at the time Jean van der Bijl. He is seen wearing the same distinctive waistcoat in another portrait by the painter.
'Best picture' by Chamberlain
“Brenda Chamberlain is important in the story of Welsh art and female Welsh art,” said auctioneer Ben Rogers Jones. “There isn’t much work on the market that has come up from when she was living on this island, and this is probably the best picture.”
She won the Gold Medal in Fine Art at the National Eisteddfod of Wales, held seven solo exhibitions in Wales and London and showed her work in over 30 group exhibitions during her lifetime. She also wrote novels and poems.
Her memoir Tide-Race, which took characters on the island and fictionalised them, was so unpopular among the locals that she was served an eviction notice by the landlord of her house, Carreg. Chamberlain died aged 59 in Bangor after an overdose of sedatives.