Saturday, May 29, 2010

VICTORIAN LANDSCAPE PAINTER



Benjamin Williams Leader was born in Worcester in 1831. His father was an engineer in Worcester where Leader spent most of his childhood. He was educated at The Worcester Grammar School and then started a career in engineering, which he soon abandoned to study art at the Worcester School of Design. It was here that he learnt the basic skills of technical draughtsmanship. This apprenticeship along with his love of the Worcestershire countryside led him to submit a painting to the Royal Academy entitled 'Cottage Children Blowing Bubbles'. This was sold to a Philadelphia Collector much impressed by the talent of this young artist.
Leader derived his artistic inspiration directly from nature and in particular his native countryside of Worcester. After visiting Scotland and Wales, he painted mainly landscapes, often of mountain and river scenes.
In 1857 he changed his name from Benjamin Leader Williams (he was related to the Williams family of painters) to Benjamin Williams Leader. This also helped avoid confusion with the eleven other artists of the same surname who exhibited at the Royal Academy. His picture 'A Stream from the Hills' was commended by Ruskin in 1857, and his work entitled 'Temptation' was purchased by the successful artist, Thomas Creswick, R.A.....
He spent a great deal of his time during these years painting in Wales, and some of his Welsh landscapes were greatly admired at The Royal Academy and placed beside works by the President, Sir Francis Grant. Leader's works have been widely collected by Museums and can be seen in Galleries all over the UK.
(Burlington Paintings)
Despite the increasing number of commissions and sales, Benjamin was not satisfied with either his method of painting or subject matters. He began experimenting with different methods to “achieve the effects of natural light and shade over his landscapes, rather than the harsh artificial luminosity from the use of bright colors alone.” (Ruth Wood, Benjamin Williams Leader, RA 1831-1923: His Life and Paintings, Woodbridge (Suffolk, England): Antique Collectors’ Club, c1998. p. 26) He also began searching for new subject matters, and went on sketching holidays around Britain to get inspiration. The results of these trips were scenes from the Midlands, around Worcester, Scotland, and the north Wales especially around Bettws-y Coed.
(Rehs GALLERIES, INC.)


The Wengen Alps, Morning In Switzerland
Oil on canvas, 1878-1896
Private collection
From ARC


A Welsh Cornfield
Oil on canvas, 1862
Private collection
From ARC


Benjamin Williams Leader once said, “The subjects of my pictures are mostly English. I have painted in Switzerland, Scotland, and a great deal of North Wales, but I prefer our English home scenes. Riversides at evening time, country lanes and commons, and the village church, are subjects that I love and am never tired of painting” (as quoted in Lewis Lusk’s “The Works of B. W. Leader, RA,” The Art Journal, London, 1901 Christmas Issue, p. 30.) Leader’s statement best described his landscapes, which he produced throughout his long artistic career.....
(Rehs GALLERIES, INC.)


Evening Return to the Homestead
Oil On Canvas, 1866
Private collection
From ARC


A Lonely Homestead
Oil On Canvas, 1901
Private collection
From ARC



Evening On The Thames At Wargrave
Oil On Canvas, 1907
Private collection
From ARC


An Old Worcestershire Manor House
Oil On Canvas
Private collection
From ARC


Blue Bells
Oil On Board, 1858
Private collection
From ARC


An English River
Oil On Canvas, 1877
Private collection
From ARC


On the Thames
Oil on canvas, 1878
Public collection
From ARC


A Peep Through The Pines
Oil on canvas, 1914
Private collection
From ARC


An Old Surrey Home
Oil on canvas, 1897
Private collection
From ARC


Where Peaceful Waters Glide
Oil on canvas, 1898
Private collection
From ARC


Returning Home
Oil on canvas, 1897
Private collection
From ARC

Derwentwater
Oil on canvas, 1868
Private collection
From ARC


The Stream in summertime
At Guildhall Art Studio, London
From songsofpraise


Mr. Leader's method of work is interesting. Having got his idea, he considers the manner of treatment and then makes a small sketch in colour, measuring about eighteen inches by ten or twelve. Sometimes this is followed by one or two more similar studies, and when the preliminary sketch is satisfactory the artist takes a five-foot canvas, if the picture is an important one, and makes a careful study in monochrome of the light and shade only. Work on the actual picture is then begun, and as a rule this is accomplished without any alterations.
It is interesting to recall the fact that Mr. Leader's father was the Chief Engineer to the Severn Commissioners, and that the future Royal Academician was destined for the same profession, like his brother, who was the engineer of the Manchester Ship Canal. At the age of fourteen he entered his father's office, and it was one of his chief duties to make surveys on the River Severn. He succumbed to the temptation to sketch the beauties of the scenery, and as a result obtained his father's permission to train as an artist.
Since he first exhibited at the Royal Academy some fifty years ago, Mr. Leader has produced between two and three hundred pictures, mainly of Worcestershire and Welsh scenery, and of the Surrey country, which is nowadays regarded as his special province.....
(From the book "Famous Paintings" Volume 2 printed in 1913)


A Worcestershire Farm
From Boltom Museum and Archive Service


By the turn of the century, Leader achieved international fame, especially in America and Canada. In addition, numerous articles appeared about Leader’s career and work, such as those in The Strand and The Windsor magazines. In 1914, one of his paintings entered the royal collection, when King George V and Queen Mary purchased On the Llugwy, Bettws-y-coed. That year, the citizens of Worcester honored him with the Freedom of the City. (Wood, p. 101) However, World War I would bring tragedy to the Leader family, when their son Benjamin was killed in 1916. Throughout the war and the remaining five years of his life, Leader continued to produce large or medium-sized landscapes for the Royal Academy’s Summer Exhibitions. He died in his home on 22 March 1923.
(Rehs GALLERIES, INC.)


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