Francis John Williamson

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to navigation Jump to search

Francis John Williamson
Bust of Queen Victoria, Kelvingrove Museum, Glasgow - DSC06254.JPG
The sculptor's bust of Queen Victoria
Born(1833-07-17)17 July 1833
Hampstead, London, England
Died12 March 1920(1920-03-12) (aged 86)
Esher, Surrey, England

Francis John Williamson (17 July 1833[1] – 12 March 1920[1]) was a British portrait sculptor,[2] reputed to have been Queen Victoria's favourite.[3]


After studying under John Bell he was an articled pupil of John Henry Foley for seven years, and his studio assistant for a further fourteen.[1]

Williamson exhibited with the Royal Academy of Arts 38 times from 1853–1897.[1] and with the Royal Birmingham Society of Artists in 1868, when he showed several items, including a medallion depicting Mrs W. Wills, 1887 and 1902.[1] It was during his time with Foley that he first met Victoria.[1] In 1870, she commissioned a memorial to George IV's daughter Princess Charlotte and her husband Prince Leopold (Victoria's uncle) which was erected inside their former home, Claremont.[1][4] (The memorial was subsequently moved to St George's Church, Esher.[4]) Many members of the royal family subsequently sat for him,[1] and in 1887 he sculpted the (Golden) Jubilee bust of Queen Victoria, which was replicated for display around the British Empire.[1]

Williamson received a number of commissions from the municipal authorities in Birmingham. These included a marble bust of the Shakespearian scholar Samuel Timmins,[2] now in the Library of Birmingham, a statue of the dissenting theologian and natural philosopher Joseph Priestley, now in Chamberlain Square,[2] a statue of Sir Josiah Mason, (destroyed, but a 1952 bronze cast of the bust, by William Bloye, is in the suburb of Erdington), a statue of preacher and reformer George Dawson (since destroyed), a statue of John Skirrow Wright (also destroyed; a 1956 bronze cast of the bust by Bloye is in Birmingham Council House), and the decoration on the pediment of the Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery, a work known as the Allegory of Fame Rewarding the Arts.[2] A plaster cast of his bust of Tennyson (1893) is in the National Portrait Gallery.[5]

He met his future wife, Elizabeth Smith, while staying in Esher and they married in 1857[5] In 1860, they set up a home and him a studio at Fairholme, 79, High Street, Esher,[3][6] where he eventually died.[5] The building (later named "The Bunch of Grapes" and now "Grapes House"[5]) is extant,[3] and carries a blue plaque, erected by the Esher Residents Association in 2010, in commemoration of Williamson.[5]

His younger brother John Henry Williamson (born c. 1843) was a silversmith.[1]

List of selected works[edit]

Statue of a man with a mortar and pestle in his left hand and his right hand upraised, holding a lens
Statue of Joseph Priestley in Chamberlain Square, Birmingham
"The Statue Indignant": cartoon of 1892 depicting Williamson's statue of John Skirrow Wright in Colmore Row, Birmingham, stepping off its plinth to beat Joseph Chamberlain

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i j "Francis John Williamson". 2013. Retrieved 29 August 2013.
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m Noszlopy, George T. (1998). Public Sculpture of Birmingham. Liverpool: Liverpool University Press. ISBN 0853236925.
  3. ^ a b c "Francis John Williamson (1833–1920)". The Victorian Web. Retrieved 29 August 2013.
  4. ^ a b "Memorial to Prince Leopold and Princess Charlotte". The Victorian Web. Retrieved 29 August 2013.
  5. ^ a b c d e "Esher Residents Association Blue Plaque Scheme – Current Status". Esher Residents Association. Archived from the original on 27 September 2013. Retrieved 3 September 2013.
  6. ^ Coordinates: 51°22′08″N 0°21′57″W / 51.368769°N 0.365781°W / 51.368769; -0.365781

External links[edit]