‘River Landscape’, with its harmonious tones and atmospheric sense of light, shows Walter Heath Williams’ skill for painting pleasing, restful compositions. The path, which leads gently down the side of the river, winds lazily into the distance. In the foreground a lone fisherman enjoys the peace and tranquillity, while further down-stream, a flock of sheep can be seen.
Many of Walter Heath Williams’ paintings look as though they might have been painted in an earlier period. Williams came from an artistic family and was one of the four sons of landscape painter George Augustus Williams (1814-1901), himself the son of a landscapist, Edward Williams (1782-1855). Walter Heath Williams’ work is similar in style to that of his grandfather, although all the members of the Williams family worked in a similar way.
The artist repeated this idyllic rural view numerous times, altering the composition slightly on each occasion. Amongst the other versions, all now in private collections, some include travellers on the path, cottages within the landscape or slightly altered landscapes, but still with the arrangement of the country path to the left, the river to the right and a view stretching far into the distance.
Walter Heath Williams was born in 1835 and enjoyed early success as a painter. He married Jane Pearcy, the daughter of a glass dealer, in 1857 and they lived in some style in Barnes, with Williams’ work being regularly shown at the Royal Academy. His wife also painted landscapes and some of her work was exhibited alongside that of her husband at the Society of Artists in London. However, Jane died at a young age and, following a second marriage, which was ended by his second wife’s premature death, Williams fell into poverty. He was living in a workhouse at the time of his death, at the age of 71.
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