PENARTH Pier Pavilion is set to host a "haunting exhibition" of Victorian portraits from next weekend, April 13.

'Born of Pain and Iron' is a portrait exhibition and haunting piece of storytelling with a difference.

Artist Anthony Rhys introduces his ‘people’ with a set of Victorian portraits revealing their true emotion and telling their story.

The exhibition will run fromSunday, April 13 to Thursday, May 8, at Penarth Pier Pavilion.

Anthony Rhys is an artist based in Beddau, Rhondda Cynon Taf. He specialises in grayscale, often haunting, portraiture.

His oil paintings are designed to represent our ancestors who lived and worked in industrial and rural Wales.

Anthony was born in 1974 in Beddau and after 35 house moves strangely ended up living a few hundred yards from where he was born 35 years later. He teaches pupils with severe learning difficulties in a special needs school full time where he specialises in using new and emerging technologies to meet their complex needs.

He paints his people sitting on the floor of the living room while listening to music.

Anthony was never formally trained, but since beginning to paint in 2009 has won many awards including the Ifor Davies Prize at the National Eisteddfod 2012.

“I have always been taken by the imagery of Victorian photographs, the sepia tones, vignetting, clothes, poses and the faces, those blank staring faces that only give tiny little hints of a person’s life and character. As an object I am also acutely aware that a photograph can be all that remains of a person’s existence after the memory of them has passed with the generations and their achievements have faded.”

He added: “I wondered where these people had woken up that morning, what they had experienced before the photo was taken and what befell them afterwards. With an interest in social and hidden history I felt that these photographs, with their serene faces and smart clothes, also lied about the past. They didn’t seem to tally with the poverty, working conditions and brutal lives that our ancestors often lived through.”

His exhibition will run from next weekend until May.

He added: “My people are individuals caught in an emotional state. Whether they are rich and influential or poor and disenfranchised I have imagined them baring themselves to us by expressing their darkest, most troubled hour. I wanted to pinpoint those times in their lives that the camera didn’t catch. I wanted to give these forgotten people their names and voices back. My people are rooted in Wales’ past and they are put into context by an individual story.”

The paintings are mainly A5 size painted in oils on canvas paper, these are pasted onto black boards 24cm by 15.8 cm which have hand-cut edges painted in gold enamel. The paintings are then framed in black wooden frames and backed onto red velvet.

“My people want to tell you something about their lives and for one fleeting moment their feelings become explicit. They are the downtrodden, poor, hapless, disenfranchised and sometimes cruel residents of farms, towns and valleys. Places blackened by smoke, sin, hypocrisy and despair.”

For full listings, times and bookings visit: or call 02920 713 201.