Donald Floyd, artist

Donald Henry Floyd

Local Tintern landscape artist Donald Floyd is virtually forgotten these days. Yet still occasionally one of his works appears at art auctions, fetching between £400-£1,200. In times past one to could see three or four of his oil paintings on display in the reception area of the now defunct Beaufort Hotel in the village.

The Wye Valley has inspired some of Britain’s most creative minds over the centuries. Artistic tributes to its unspoiled beauty have flowed from the likes of Wordsworth and Turner – but none was quite as prolific as Donald Floyd.

Donald moved to Tintern with his wife and young son in 1937 and lived at ‘The Woodlands’ on the Trellech Road until his death in 1965. During this period he produced some 200 canvases, depicting scenes of Tintern and surrounding Monmouthshire. He would set up his easel on the roadside and just paint what he saw. Passing motorists would stop and have a look; he would offer them a cup of tea from his flask. He made a lot of friends that way. In Winter months, he preferred to throw on a couple of overcoats and capture colours of the scene on the spot rather than following more modern convention involving first drawing the scene and then adding the oil paint back in the studio. The result was always timeless, accurate, and evocative.
A selection of Donald Floyd's paintings. Click on any image to enlarge.
Born in Plymouth in 1892, Floyd trained under Frederick Snell and John Barlow for five years with such success that he was exhibiting at the Walker Art Gallery, Liverpool when he was 21. Snell was the Art Master at Blundell’s School and taught him water colours whilst Barlow of the St Ives’ School introduced him to painting with oils. Although his plan was to teach, the First World War interfered with these ambitions as he enlisted into 5th Devons Territorials but later transferred to the Royal Engineers. During the war he served in Egypt and Palestine and was latterly employed as a camouflage artist.

He first exhibited at the Royal Academy in London in 1920 and was have 16 of his painting displayed there over the next thirty years. His works were also regularly on view at Royal Birmingham Society of Artists and the Royal West of England Academy in Bristol. He married Annie Rogers, a teacher from Newport and they lived in Caldicot and Chepstow before moving to Tintern. When in 1948 Ceylon, now Sir Lanka, gained its independence, Floyd gained a commission to record that event for posterity which included over 60 paintings. This was despite having to learn to use his left arm after losing the use of his right arm due to illness. It is wonderful that Donald Floyd left us this permanent legacy of the wonders of the Wye Valley and its byways depicting a slower pace of life before the age of mass motoring.
Prepared by Martin Everett, July 2019