BENJAMIN WILLIAMS LEADER, RA
Worcester 1831 - 1923 Shere, Surrey
The Thames at Streatley
Signed and dated 1903; inscribed with the title on the stretcher
Canvas: 16 ¼ x 24 ¼ in / 41.3 x 61.6 cm
Purchased from the artist by Arthur Tooth, May 1903 (72 gns)
Sir George White
Sale, Christie’s, London, 23rd February 1917, lot 150 (95 gns)
Sale, Bonhams, London, 5th August 1971, lot 25
Richard Green, London
The artist’s own sale records, 1903
R.Wood, Benjamin Williams Leader, R.A. 1831-1923: His Life and Works, Woodbridge, 1998, pp.47, 127
Windsor Magazine, 1912, p. 694
The Worcestershire born artist Benjamin Williams Leader first visited locations on the Thames in 1872, when he stayed with the fellow landscape artist, Samuel Phillips Jackson (1830-1904), who lived at Streatley-on-Thames, directly across the river from Goring. Leader’s first paintings of the Thames at Streatley date from this year, though they were to become part of his oeuvre throughout his career, alongside views of other Thameside areas such as Panbourne, Whitchurch at Mapledurham in the south, and Dorchester, Shillingford and Wallingford in the north.
Leader painted a larger version, measuring 30 x 60 in., of this scene in 1903 which was also purchased from the artist by London dealer Arthur Tooth (location unknown). The composition, deriving from either the larger or the present work, was engraved and illustrated in the Windsor Magazine, 1912, p. 694.
We are grateful to Ruth Wood MA for her assistance with the cataloguing of this work.
BENJAMIN WILLIAMS LEADER RA
Worcester 1831 - 1923 Shere, Surrey
Born as Benjamin Williams, he added the surname Leader, his father's middle name, to distinguish himself from the Williams family. Upon abandoning a profession in engineering for art, he became a pupil at the Royal Academy in 1853. The following year he showed his first picture there, and continued to exhibit prolifically up until his death in 1923.
He achieved notable success with his painting, February Fill Dyke exhibited in 1881. It
remains one of the most famous Victorian paintings, and is a tribute to Leader's artistic talents. The Royal Academy elected him an associate in 1883, and academician in 1898. He also exhibited abroad, winning the gold medal and the legion of honour in Paris in 1889.
Leader was extremely popular in Victorian times and his work sold for high prices. Today he is recognized as one of the most accomplished Victorian landscape artists of his day. He usually chose scenes from the Midlands and the Thames valley, although he was also partial to Welsh landscapes, especially around Bettws-y-Coed.
His earlier work reflects his admiration of the Pre-Raphaelites, however, he later developed a broader, more naturalistic style. A realistic feeling of space and a lightness of atmosphere are characteristic of his work. James Dafforne, the contemporary art critic of the Art Journal, praised his work in glowing terms in 1871: ‘his style is a happy medium between excess of detail and over elaboration on the one hand, and a dash of execution on the other...we regard Mr. Leader as one of our best landscape painters.’
The work of Benjamin Williams Leader is represented in the Aberdeen Art Gallery and Museum, the Birmingham City Art Gallery, the Blackburn Museum and Art Gallery, the Towneley Hall Art Gallery, Burnley, the Bristol City Art Gallery, the Ferens Art Gallery, Kingston-upon-Hull, the Guildhall Art Gallery, the Royal Academy of Arts, Tate Britain and the Victoria and Albert Museum, London, the Manchester City Art Gallery, the Mappin Art Gallery, Sheffield, the Atkinson Art Gallery, Southport, the Royal Holloway and Bedford New College collection, Surrey and the Worcester City Art Gallery.