Christopher Williams (Welsh artist)

Christopher David Williams RBA (7 January 1873–1934) was a Welsh artist.

Christopher Williams
Self Portrait (gcf02743).jpg
Christopher Williams

(1873-01-07)7 January 1873
Died19 July 1934(1934-07-19) (aged 61)
Known forPainter


Portrait of David Lloyd George (1911)

Williams was born in Maesteg, Wales. His father Evan Williams intended him to be a doctor, but he disliked the idea. A visit to the Walker Art Gallery, Liverpool, in 1892, where he spent some hours in front of Frederick Leighton's Perseus and Andromeda, revealed a new world to him. He left the Gallery with a firm decision that he would be an artist. He studied first in Neath at the town's Technical Institute in 1892 and 1893 under Mr. Kerr. From 1893 he spent three years at the Royal College of Art and then studied at the Royal Academy Schools from 1896 until 1901.[1] In 1902, his Paolo and Francesca was hung in the Royal Academy and his portrait of his father was shown there in 1903.[2] These were the first of 18 paintings by Williams exhibited there. His portrait of Sir Alfred Lyall was exhibited at the Royal Academy in 1910 and brought him an invitation from the Royal Society of British Artists to join their ranks and he exhibited 37 paintings in their Gallery over the next decade. He also exhibited with the Royal Society of Portrait Painters until 1930.

In 1911, Williams received a commission from King George V to work on a commemorative painting of the Investiture of Edward, Prince of Wales at Caernarfon Castle. As well as attending the ceremony, he visited Buckingham Palace, where the Royal Family sat for him in order to complete the detail of the picture. He completed two versions of this painting.

Among his portraits were those of David Lloyd George, Sir John Williams, Sir John Rhys, Sir Henry Jones, Sir John Morris Jones, Dr Stanton Coit, Sir Frederick Mills, John Hinds MP. He painted the first of three portraits of Lloyd George in the summer of 1911. Lloyd George described him as "one of the most gifted artists Wales has produced".

During the First World War, he painted the Welsh Charge at Mametz Wood, now in Amgueddfa Cymru – National Museum Wales.

Williams painted three scenes from the Mabinogion. Ceridwen (1910) and Branwen (1915) are in the collection of the Glynn Vivian Art Gallery, Swansea. Blodeuwedd (1930) is at the Newport Museum and Art Gallery. Williams painted many landscapes in Wales, Switzerland, Italy, France, Spain, Morocco and Holland. Amongst his landscapes is The Red Dress at the National Museum of Wales and Holidays – Village Girls at Llangrannog in the collection of the National Library of Wales.

In the post-war years and until his death Williams did much to stimulate an interest in art in Wales and was a frequent adjudicator at the National Eisteddfod, a member of the Arts Committee of the National Museum of Wales and of the Council of the Honourable Society of Cymmrodorion.

Plaque at Christopher Williams' birthplace on Commercial Street, Maesteg.

He had a great love for humanity and deep sympathy with the downtrodden and oppressed. Shortly before his death in 1934, he presented to the Salvation Army a large picture of the Thames Embankment scene at night which he called Why?

Williams married Emily Appleyard and together they had two sons, Gwyn and Ivor. Evan Gwyn Williams was an astronomer and his other son was the artist Ivor Williams. He was the brother-in-law of fellow artist Fred Appleyard.

Works by Williams are in the collections of the National Museum of Wales, National Library of Wales, Royal Collection, Glynn Vivian Art Gallery, Newport Museum, Parc Howard Museum and Art Gallery, Carmarthenshire County Museum, Maesteg Town Hall, Bridgend County Borough Council, Caernarfon Council, Harewood House, Aberystwyth University, National Liberal Club, Lloyd George Museum, Ffyone Mansion, Bangor University, Hunterian Museum and Art Gallery, Froebel College, Templeton House, Dulwich College, Llandovery College, Neath Port Talbot College, Bradford Museums Galleries and Heritage.

In 1973, an exhibition was organised on the centenary of William's birth at the National Museum of Wales, Glynn Vivian Art Gallery and Maesteg Town Hall. A major retrospective exhibition of his work took place from July to September 2012 at the National Library of Wales in Aberystwyth. A version of this exhibition toured to the Gwynedd Museum and Art Gallery, Bangor in October and November 2012.[3][4]

Notable worksEdit


Deffroad Cymru, the Awakening of Wales (1911)
  • Branwen The subject is from the Mabinogion. The beautiful Branwen was a sister of the King of Britain and married the King of Ireland at a time then these two countries were at war. She died in Anglesey: 'and Branwen looked towards Ireland and towards the Island of the Mighty, to see if she could descry them. "Alas", said she, "woe is me that I was ever born; two islands have been destroyed because of me!" The painting was first exhibited at the Royal Academy in 1915. In the collection of the Glynn Vivian Art Gallery, Swansea.
  • The Welsh at Mametz Wood The Charge of the Welsh Division at Mametz Wood, 11 July 1916, part of the Somme offensive. Painted at the request of the Secretary of State for War, David Lloyd George. Williams visited the scene in November 1916 and later made studies from a soldier supplied for the purpose. The painting is in the collection of the National Museum of Wales, to whom it was presented by Sir Archibald Mitchelson in 1920.
  • Spring Spring was exhibited at the Royal Academy Summer Exhibition in 1908.
  • Blodeuwedd This subject is from the Mabinogion. Gwydion and Math "by charms and illusions" formed a wife for Llew Llaw Gyffes: "so they took the blossoms of the oak, and the blossoms of the broom, and the blossoms of the meadowsweet, and produced from them a maiden, the fairest and most graceful that man ever saw. And they baptized her, and gave her the name Blodeuwedd". In the collection of the Newport Museum and Art Gallery (gift of the Artists wife, Mrs. Emily Williams, 1937).
  • Deffroad Cymru, the Awakening of Wales The painting shows a female nude emerging from the jaws of a sea-dragaon, a kind of Celtic Birth of Venus. Preliminary drawings of this are in the sketchbook that Christopher Williams used at Caernarfon Castle in 1911 when recording the Investiture of the Prince of Wales. This subject was thus a nationalistic allegory that was both contemporary and of special relevance to the artist.
  • Ceridwen is a subject from the Mabinogion. The painting was first exhibited at the Royal Academy in 1910 and is now in the collection of the Glynn Vivian Art Gallery, Swansea.


Holidays – Village Girls at Llangrannog (1915)


The Red Dress (1917)


  1. ^ Frances Spalding (1990). 20th Century Painters and Sculptors. Antique Collectors' Club. ISBN 1 85149 106 6.
  2. ^ Phil Carradice (4 March 2011). "Christopher Williams: local boy makes good". BBC Wales History. Retrieved 5 June 2016.
  3. ^ Laura Chamberlain (26 June 2012). "National Library prepares for Christopher Williams retrospective". BBC Wales arts. Retrieved 5 June 2016.
  4. ^ Sion Jobbins (2 July 2012). "Christopher Williams Awakes!". The National Library of Wales. Archived from the original on 17 March 2016. Retrieved 5 June 2016.
  • Williams, Jeremiah (ed.) (1955). Christopher Williams RBA : an account of his life and appreciations of his work. Caernarfon: Delyn Press. ISBN.CS1 maint: extra text: authors list (link)
  • Fraser Jenkins, A. D. (1973). Christopher Williams Centenary 1873–1973 [catalogue of Exhibitions At] National Museum of Wales, Cardiff, 31 March-22 April, Glynn Vivian Art Gallery, Swansea, 5 May-2 June, Town Hall, Maesteg, 18 June-7 July. Cardiff: National Museum of Wales. ISBN 0-7200-0036-X.
  • A Souvenir of The Christopher Williams Exhibition at Maesteg Town Hall, May–June 1949.
  • An Exhibition of Paintings by Christopher Williams R.B.A and Ivor Williams, 16–28 July 1981, Maesteg Town Hall (introduction by P.H.Phelps).
  • Meyrick, Robert (2012). Christopher Williams ' artist and nothing else'. Aberystwyth: National Library of Wales, Aberystwyth University. ISBN 978-1-899095-31-5.

External linksEdit