Christopher Williams

Last updated: 22 February 2011

Christopher Williams was one of the leading figures in Welsh art during his career. As a prominent portrait artist he completed a number of high profile commissions, and in his later years sought to encourage an interest in the visual arts in Wales.

Williams was born in Maesteg in January 1873. He attended Llynfi Ironworks School where his artistic talent was first recognised, studied under artist F J Kerr of Neath - who taught art at his home in Slaughterhouse Road - and then later at Neath Technical Institute.

In 1893 he won a scholarship to the Royal College of Art and from there free entry to the Royal Academy Schools.

Williams won many commissions, notably one in 1911 to paint The Investiture of Edward, Prince of Wales at Caernarfon Castle.

He painted three different portraits of former Welsh Prime Minister David Lloyd George and during World War One, Lloyd George commissioned him to paint one of his most notable works, The Charge of the Welsh Division at Mametz Wood.

Although not an official war artist, Williams was granted permission to visit the Western Front and completed a preparatory sketch; he completed the painting in 1917, which now hangs in the Royal Welch Fusiliers Museum in Caernarfon.

Williams was primarily a portraitist, his sitters included Richard Lloyd (Lloyd George's uncle and mentor); Sir John Rhys; Sir John Morris Jones; Thomas Henry Thomas and Sir Henry Jones.

However, examples of his landscapes include The Red Dress and Holidays - Village Girls at Llangrannog, which are held by the National Museum Wales and National Library of Wales respectively.

He also created three paintings inspired by the Mabinogion; Ceridwen (1910), Branwen (1915) and Blodeuwedd (1930).

From 1925 until 1932 Williams was a member of the Art Committee of the National Museum of Wales.

A socialist, Williams was a member of the Fabian Society and encouraged art to be accessible for the masses, and during his later years sought to encourage an interest in the visual arts in Wales.

His painting The Awakening of Wales, which he began in 1911, adorns the walls of the offices of the Caernarfon County Council. Five examples of his work hang in Maesteg Town Hall, including one of his young son dressed up as a judge, Look Dad I'm a Judge, and one of his father Evan Williams, who was a local grocer.

Further examples of his work are held by the Glynn Vivian Art Gallery and Newport Museum and Art Gallery among many others.

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