Walter Williams (1835 - 1906)
(1835 - 1906)
A Surrey Cornfield
Oil on canvas
24 x 42 inches
Signed and dated 1869
Walter Williams was born in Barnes in 1835, where he lived most of his life painting landscapes of the surrounding countryside. He was a member of 'The Williams Family of Painters' who were known for their idealistic and Victorian approach toward Nineteenth Century Landscape painting. They are, perhaps, the largest successful family of painters ever.
Walter Williams was well taught by his father, August Williams and by his grandfather, Edward. Other family members influenced his work as well. His rustic landscapes show traces of Henry John Boddington's style while his larger works exhibit a closer attention to detail more typical of his uncles Sidney Richard Percy and Arthur Gilbert.
One of the subjects that Williams painted often was cornfields. He saw cornfields as one of the finest representations of unspoiled nature. Williams was driven by the need to obtain purity and naturalism in everyday life. His palette was filled with warm yellow tones like his father's. His paintings show his formulation of the "spectacular day". A hazy sunset lights the cornfield and in the background stands a castle upon a hill and an arcade connecting the nearest township. Williams achieved the effect of flowers glistening by stippling, (laying the paint on in dots as the pointillists did) in the foreground of his paintings. In order to show man's relationship with nature he often placed peasants in his rustic landscapes.
In 1857, Williams married Jane Percy at St. George's, Hanover Square. Jane Percy was also a painter and had exhibited several landscapes with the Society of British Artists. Jane and Walter lived comfortable at 8 Lansdale Terrace, Barnes. They had two children together, Florence and Cyril, who were also painters. Jane died on October 20, 1872. Soon after Walter remarried but in 1890 was a widower again. His third marriage was to a woman thirty years his junior. She is believed by some to have been the cause of his financial and social ruin.
After living at Lansdale Terrace for nearly half a century, he left this address in 1902 destitute and entered a work house. In 1905 he transferred from Croydon Workhouse to Richmond Union Workhouse. By this time he was out of touch with friends and family. He died at the age of 71, on April 19th 1906 and was buried in a pauper's grave.