Peter Prendergast was born in Abertridwr in Glamorgan on 27th October 1946, one of twin boys. He also had an older brother. His father had moved over from Ireland to work in the South Wales coal mines in 1917 and his mother had been brought up in Cardiff, the only daughter in a family of boys. Both were committed Catholics and the boys were taken to church every Sunday and remained practising Catholics into adulthood.
There was little money around when Peter was growing up and he was soon doing paper rounds and grocery delivery rounds. While both his brothers passed the 11+ and went to grammar schools, Peter failed and went to the local secondary modern. He did well there, being what was then called a ‘late developer’ (in adult life he realised he was dyslexic) and became head boy in his final year. However, the most important event of his school life was meeting an inspirational art teacher there, Gomer Lewis, who told Peter he could become a painter and who encouraged him to apply to Cardiff Art School.
This he did. He was offered a place to study ‘commercial art’, the only course open to him at his age and without ‘O’ levels, and he was then awarded an art scholarship which enabled him to take up the place. He was there for two years before he applied, and gained entrance to, the Slade School in London. By now he was seventeen.
When he first went to London, homesickness meant he travelled back to South Wales every weekend to play rugby. Eventually he joined a rugby club in Finchley and came to enjoy living in London. In the first couple of weeks at the Slade he met Mike Knowles who became a close friend. At that time, the Slade employed a remarkable group of figurative painters: Tutors included Euan Uglow, Michael Andrews, Jeffery Camp, Frank Auerbach and Patrick George, all under the astute leadership of William Coldstream. When Peter graduated, in 1967, he was awarded the Nettleship prize for Figure Painting and won a book on Nicolas de Stael.
In the autumn after leaving the Slade he started teaching part time at a secondary school in Abbey Wood, South London, and also got married, but in 1968 he went to Reading University to start a Master of Fine Art course. It was in Reading that he met his lifelong friend Len Tabner.
Peter always intended to move back to Wales, but it was to North Wales that he moved in 1970, rather than back to the south. In total, he lived in six different houses, but all in the same area, in and around Bethesda and Deiniolen in Gwynedd, and this is where he painted, apart from occasional trips away, for the rest of his life. The first of his four children was born in 1971.
From 1970 until 1974, he taught in Liverpool College of Art, Wrexham and Birkenhead, but in 1974 due to cutbacks in part-time staff and the fact that figurative painting had become un-fashionable, he lost his job in Liverpool and took a job as a teacher in the local secondary school. In 1980 he was instrumental in developing the Art foundation course in Bangor. Until that time students had had to travel to Wrexham to study art. Selwyn Jones led the course and alongside others, including Paul Davies and Ed Davies, they set the foundation stones for what has become one of the most successful courses of its kind in the UK. Many of its past students are now involved with important art related activities all over the globe.
As well as teaching, Peter served on the Welsh Arts Council for four years and he was an executive member of the Association of Artists and Designers in Wales in 1979-1980. In 2000 he was invited to participate in a consultative document for art by the National Museums and Galleries of Wales.
In 1975 Peter was awarded a Welsh Arts Council Bursary. He won a prize at the Singer Friedlander Watercolour exhibition in 1996 and twice won prizes at the National Eisteddfod. In 1992 he was awarded a travel scholarship to visit the USA by the Welsh Arts Council and in 2000 he became a member of the Royal West of England Academy. Details of his exhibitions, commissions and residencies can be found on the relevant pages of this site.