Christopher Williams (Welsh artist)

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Christopher Williams
Christopher Williams1.jpg
Born Christopher Williams
(1873-01-07)7 January 1873
Maesteg, Wales
Died 19 July 1934(1934-07-19) (aged 61)
London, England
Nationality Welsh
Known for Painter

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


He 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 under Mr. Kerr and later at the Royal College of Art and the Royal Academy Schools.

In 1902, his "Paolo and Francesca" was hung in the Royal Academy and his portrait of his father in 1903. These were the first of 18 paintings exhibited there.

His portrait of Sir Alfred Lyall exhibited at the Royal Academy in 1910 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 in the Royal Society of Portrait Painters until 1930.

In 1911, he 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 Rt. Hon. 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.

He 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.

He 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 he 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?"

In 1973, an exhibition was organised on the centenary of his birth at the National Museum of Wales, Glynn Vivian Art Gallery and Maesteg Town Hall.

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

His works 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.

A major retrospective exhibition of his work took place from 7 July to 22 September 2012 at the National Library of Wales in Aberystwyth. A version of this exhibition is on tour at the Gwynedd Museum and Art Gallery, Bangor from 6 October – 17 November 2012.

Notable works[edit]

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. Christopher Williams visited the scene in November 1916 and later made studies from a soldier supplied for the purpose. In the collection of the National Museum of Wales, to whom it was presented by Sir Archibald Mitchelson, Bart. 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. In the collection of the Glynn Vivian Art Gallery, Swansea.
Portrait of David Lloyd George (1911)


The Red Dress (1917)


Holidays - Village Girls at Llangrannog (1915)


  • Williams, Jeremiah (ed.) (1955). Christopher Williams RBA : an account of his life and appreciations of his work. Caernarfon: Delyn Press. ISBN. 
  • 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.  (Available at NLW Bookshop)

External links[edit]