The Barnes School (Part 4)

The children

Sidney Richard Percy and Alfred Walter Williams

Sidney Richard Percy

Sidney Richard Percy Williams.

The fifth son of Edward and Ann Williams was Sidney Richard Percy Williams.  He was born on March 22nd 1822 in London.  His eldest brother, Edward Charles was fourteen years old when Sidney was born.  Once again, like his brothers before him, he was taught to paint by his father and he never received any formal training. 

 Llanberis, North Wales, by Sidney Richard Percy (1871)

His childhood years were spent in or near the artist’s quarter of Tottenham Court and Brunswick Square.  In 1846 he moved to his father’s house at 32 Castelnau in the London suburb of Barnes.  It was here that he lived and worked with his father and his older brothers in a communal artist setting within the large house which had a studio which the father and sons shared.  Although Castelnau is a built-up metropolitan area now, at the time of the William’s family living there, it was at the heart of a rural countryside area, close to the River Thames.  It was an area of marshland and windmills with many small farms, ploughed fields and countryside inns.  It was an ideal area for budding landscape painters such as the Williams family.

Llyn-y-Ddinas, North Walesby Sidney Richard Percy (1873)

Sidney signed his early works of art Sidney Williams but from the age of twenty he signed his name Sidney Percy so as to set himself aside from his brothers and their paintings.  His elder brothers Henry (Boddington) and Arthur (Gilbert) had also changed how they signed their work for the same reason.  From 1842, his work was exhibited at the Royal Academy, the British Institution, and the Suffolk Street Gallery of the Society of British Artists.  He also exhibited in many of the lesser-known Victorian art venues.

Rest on the Roadside by Sidney Richard Percy (1861)

Sidney was also an avid amateur photographer, and some of his paintings show figures based on photographs that he took of gypsies frequenting the area around Barnes and Wimbledon Commons.  One such painting is his 1861 work entitled Rest on the Roadside.

Left: Detail from the painting. Right: Photo by Sidney Richard Percy

Although the painting seems to be a simple en plein air depiction of the two gypsies, the photograph which is part of the Victoria and Albert Museum collection states on its website that it may have been staged, rather than taken in an actual countryside setting, and in fact the characters in the depiction are household servants dressed up to look like gypsies. Photographs still survive that Sidney took at home of various family members.  He also took pictures of views of fishing boats and old buildings, many of which he used for his paintings.

Sidney with his wife Charlotte and their first child, Gordon Fairlam Percy Williams (1858)

Edward Williams, the family patriarch died in 1855 and two years later,  Sidney married Emily Charlotte Fairlam, one of the younger children of a large family of seven, on June 10th, 1857 in the Barnes Parish Church. He signed his name as Sidney Richard Percy Williams on his marriage certificate although he was known to the public and appears in the census records and exhibition catalogues, as Sidney Richard Percy.

Mountain Pass by Sidney Richard Perry (1872)

Once Sidney had married he left the home he had shared with his family at 32 Castelnau and moved with his wife to Florence Villa on Inner Park Road in nearby Wimbledon, Surrey.  It was said to be a substantial house on an acre and half of land, with coach house and servants quarters.  He and Emily remained there for four years during which time his wife gave birth to their four children.   The first born child was Gordon Fairlam Percy Williams who was born on April 12th, 1858.  Their daughter Edith Maude Percy Williams came next on April 14th 1859 and their third child, another daughter, Amy Dora was born on October 6th 1860.   Sidney Percy’s art had been selling well and the family finances were extremely good.  Whether it was their newly-found wealth or the fact that their family was expanding, Sidney’s wife decided they needed to move to a larger home and so in 1863, the year that their fourth child, Herbert, was born, the family moved to Hill House in the village of Great Missenden, Buckinghamshire.

Hill House, Great Missenden, where Sidney Richard Percy lived from 1863 to around.1872, and where Herbert Sidney Percy was born.

Hill House was a large, three-storey building complete with cellar and servants quarters.  It was situated in a position which boasted beautiful views across the Misbourne Valley and was an ideal starting point for sketching and painting trips into the nearby countryside. Sidney did not restrict his painting forays to the nearby countryside as he travelled extensively throughout Britain, visiting Northern Wales, Devon, Yorkshire, the Lake District and Skye continually pictorially recording the beautiful landscapes.  He also travelled to Venice in 1865 along with his friend and neighbour, the watercolour artist, William Callow.  The painting trip was brought to an abrupt end in 1866 when war broke out between Prussia and Austria, and Sidney was compelled to return to Hill House and to concentrate his painting trips to North Wales in and around the villages of Llanbedr and Arthog.

Cattle and Sheep in a Scottish Highland Landscape by Sidney Richard Perry (1851)

There was a downturn in the popularity of landscape art with the buying public and landscape artists found it difficult to sell their paintings.  Sidney suffered from this downturn in the popularity of his work in the 1870’s and the family income waned to such an extent that he and his wife could no longer live in the lap of luxury at Hill House and had to downsize in 1873 for a more modest residence in Redhill, Surrey.  They remained there until 1879 when they made their final house move to Woodseat, Mulgrave Road, in the London borough of Sutton.

On the Thames, Medmenham by Sidney Richard Perry (1847)

Sidney suffered a horse riding accident in the 1880’s and badly injured his knee when he was thrown from his horse.  The injury proved to be so serious that he had to have his leg amputated.  Sidney Richard Percy Williams died at home on April 13th 1886, aged 64, due to complications from the operation.  Sidney’s finances had been excellent in the 1870’s but at the time of his death they had deteriorated so much that at the end of 1886, his widow was forced to auction off his remaining works to try and boost her meagre inheritance.  However, Emily had to be supported in her final years by her Quaker son-in-law Fred Reynolds, the husband of their daughter, Amy Dora.   Sidney’s widow Emily died in 1904.  Sidney Richard Perry and his wife Emily Charlotte are buried at the Beckenham Cemetery on Elmers End Road, which is located in the Beckenham parish on the outskirts of London.

Alfred Walter Williams

Alfred Walter Williams

Alfred Walter Williams and his identical twin, Charles, were born on July 18th 1824 in Southwark, London.  Sadly, the second twin died a few days after birth. Alfred was the sixth son of the painter Edward Williams and Ann Hildebrandt and a member of the Williams family of painters, who also had family connections to such famous artists as James Ward, R.A. and George Morland. Alfred, who like his older brothers, was taught by his father and being the youngest also received artistic tuition from his siblings.

The Rescue by Albert Walter Williams (1859)

Alfred’s first work to be accepted by the Royal Academy was in 1843 and following that breakthrough he regularly exhibited there until 1890.  Alfred also exhibited his work at the Society of British Artists’ exhibitions.  That illustrious society was renamed the Royal Society of British Artists in 1887.

 The Castle of Ischia, off the Coast of Naples, Italy by Alfred Walter Williams (1865)

Alfred with his family had moved into a large Surrey home at 32 Castelnau, Barnes in 1846.  It was a large residence with a spacious coach house which was converted into a studio for the whole family.  

Playing Football Outside the Gun Inn by Alfred Walter Williams (1844)

Alfred was very close to his brother Sidney Richard Percy.  Sidney married Emily Fairlam in 1857 and left the family home at Castelnau and moved to Florence Villa, Wimbledon with their children.  Alfred boarded with them for a couple of years.  In 1860 he rented accommodation from Mr and Mrs Fitzsimon in their Westgate Street home in Reigate.  In 1870 he was on the move again, this time he went to Mead Vale in the Surrey town of Redhill.

Off Hastings, Sunrise by Alfred Walter Williams (1885)

On August 13th 1888, sixty-four year-old Alfred married his housekeeper, Ann Hutchence, who had been widowed since her husband died in 1862.  Ann was ten years younger than Alfred and not only did Alfred gain a wife but he became stepfather to Ann’s two daughter, Rosie who was twenty-eight at the time her mother re-married and Ada who was two years younger.  There is no record of Alfred and Ann  having any children.

Cornfield with Reapers by Alfred Walter Williams (1864)

Alfred and his family remained in their Mead Vale home until 1895 when they moved to 40 Croydon Road in Reigate, which was close to his older brother Arthur Gilbert, who lived on Canterbury Road in West Croydon.  Alas, Arthur died that same year.

The River Mole, Bletchworth, Surrey by Alfred Walter Williams.

Alfred Walter Williams died on December 16th, 1905 in the Croydon area of South London.  His wife is thought to have died around 1921.  Alfred and his wife are both buried in the Mitcham Road Cemetery in Croydon, Surrey.

Welsh Hillside Farmers Dragging Bracken by Alfred Walter Williams

Alfred Walter Williams produced grand and romantic landscapes in the best tradition of the Williams family, which through their popularity became the most successful Victorian family of painters.

Most of the information I have found for these blogs about the Barnes School came from the excellent website of Mike Clark, entitled Genealogy of the Percy, Williams and Ward families.  If you would like to read an in-depth account of the Williams family, this is a must-read.

The Barnes School

The Patriarch, Old Williams.

When I came across the words “Barnes School” in connection with art, I immediately thought it was referring to an artistic colony or a type of painting but I was wrong, albeit the name derived from the then rural town of Barnes, a district in the London Borough of Richmond upon Thames, where a talented artistic family had their painting studio.  The name referred to a nineteenth century family of gifted Victorian landscape painters who pictorially depicted the British countryside.  The head of this family of artists was Edward Williams. In this and the next three blogs I will be looking at the life and work of the talented patriarch and his six sons

Edward Williams (1781-1855)

Edward Williams was born some time in 1781 as baptismal records show him as being baptised on October 13th 1781 at St. Mary’s Church in the London borough of Lambeth.  Edward was the son of Edward Williams, an engraver and Mary Ward.  Mary came from a large artistic family. She was a sister of James Ward the well-known animal painter, and a sister of the equally well-known engraver, William Ward. Mary was also a sister-in-law of the talented figure painter George Morland, and a sister-in-law of Henry Chalon, another animal painter. The family history recounts that around 1793 Edward Williams’ mother left his father for another man, and their son Edward was sent to live with his maternal uncle, James Ward the painter. Ward was one of the outstanding artists of the day and was regarded as one of the great animal painters of his time.  It is not recorded as to whether Ward ever gave his young nephew any artistic training but there is no doubt that Edward must have been influenced by his brief association with Ward.

A Cottage in a Wooded Landscape by Edward Williams

After staying with Ward for a short period Edward Williams took up an apprenticeship with a carver and gilder named Thomas Hillier, who was not in any of the trade guilds but nonetheless had a shop on Silver Street, Golden Square, London. It was probable that Edward began his career carving and gilding picture frames, but it is also known that to support himself financially he painted and sold miniatures.

River Landscape with Windsor Castle by Edward Williams

Edward married Ann Hildebrant, who was the daughter of Frederick and Sarah Hildebrant, on February 12th, 1806 at St. Pancras Church in London. Ann was twenty-five and Edward was a year younger.  Although Edward Williams’ profession was as a carver and gilder he was amongst relatives who were all well-known painters and engravers, and consequently, as time passed, Edward re-invented himself as a painter. 

The Jewish Cemetery by van Ruisdael (c.1655)

His initial delving into the world of art was when he started to copy well known landscape paintings of the Dutch Baroque era of the 1600’s, such as those by Jacob Isaackszoon van Ruisdael and Meindert Hobbema. 

The Old Watermill by George Morland (1790)

Following this phase in his artistic career, he concentrated on copying works by contemporary landscape painters, such as his uncle, George Morland. Edward took the decision to become a landscape painter which was a risky choice as landscape art was, at the time, considered to be an inferior genre.

River by Moonlight by Edward Williams

Edward Williams became known for his moonlight scenes.  Edward Williams often shared art exhibition venues with his sons, causing some confusion with the public who had trouble telling one Williams painting from another. He is often called “Old Williams” to distinguish him from his oldest son, and he is referred to in some of the art journals of the time as “Moonight Williams”, as moonlit scenes of the Thames were one of his favourite subjects in his paintings

A View on the Banks of the Thames by Edward Williams

As he got older, for river scenes along the Thames.

Edward and his wife Ann Hildebrandt had married in February 1806 and went on to have eight children.  The first-born was Edward Charles Williams who was born on July 10th 1807 and because he had been given the same name as his father, Edward Williams, his father became known in his later years as “Old Williams” to distinguish himself from his eldest son .  Two more sons followed, Henry John Boddington Williams in October 1811, George Augustus Williams in May 1814.   Then followed the Williams’ only daughter, Emily Anne Williams who was born in June 1816.   Arthur Gilbert Frederick Williams arrived in December 1819 followed by Sidney Richard Percy Williams in March 1822.  Identical twin boys Alfred Walter Williams and Charles Williams were the final additions to the Williams family in July 1824.  Sadly, Charles Williams died shortly after birth.

Crossing the Stream, A Wayside Chat by Edward Williams

Edward and his wife Ann lived in various residences, in what is now termed the West End of London, in Percy Street, Foley Street, and Charlotte Street.  In 1827 the family moved to Cromer Street in the St Pancras area where they stayed for almost twenty years.  By 1846 with the continuous sale of the father and sons’ paintings, the family’s finances had improved.  Add to that fact the family had grown, they needed a larger residence and so moved to 32 Castelnau Villas, Barnes.  Edward Williams spent his final years there with his wife Ann.  She died, aged 71, and was buried on September 24th, 1851 at the Barnes Parish Church.  Old Williams was overcome with the grief from the death of his wife and he died just four years later at the age of 74 on June 24th, 1855 at his Castelnau Villa house.  He along with his wife now rest in the Old Barnes Cemetery.  Sadly, the cemetery has been turned into a nature sanctuary by the city council and the graveyard has fallen into disrepair and is overgrown with bushes and vines.

……………..to be continued.

Most of the information I have found for these blogs about the Barnes School came from the excellent website of Mike Clark, entitled Genealogy of the Percy, Williams and Ward families.  If you would like to read an in-depth account of the Williams family, this is a must-read.