The Corresponence of James McNeil Whistler

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Benjamin Williams Leader, 1831-1923

Nationality: English
Date of Birth: 1831.03.12
Place of Birth: Reading
Date of Death: 1923.03.22
Place of Death: Shere


Benjamin Williams Leader was a Worcester landscape and coastal painter. He was born 'Benjamin Williams' but added 'Leader' in order to distinguish himself from the Williams family of artists to whom he was not related. He married the flower painter Mary Eastlake. Their son, Benjamin Eastlake Leader, became a landscape painter.


Leader's landscapes are predominantly of Scotland, the Midlands and North Wales. His early works show the influence of the 'truth to Nature' approach of the Pre-Raphaelites, for example, February Full-Dyke (Birmingham Art Gallery), which has been described as the landscape equivalent of William Holman Hunt's The Light of the World. The works from his mature period evince a greater breadth of style and were very popular.

He exhibited at the Royal Academy from 1857 until 1922, as well as at the Royal Institute of Oil Painters, British Institution, Carfax and Co. Gallery, Arthur Tooth and Sons Gallery and Agnew and Sons Gallery in London. He also exhibited at the Royal Hibernian Academy, Royal Society of Artists in Birmingham, Manchester City Gallery and Walker Art Gallery in Liverpool. In 1883 he was elected an associate of the Royal Academy, becoming a full member in 1898.

Leader's name crops up a number of times in the Whistler Correspondence, his works normally representing the antithesis of JW's art (see #03737, #05775, #05822).


Bénézit, E., Dictionnaire des Peintres, Sculpteurs, Dessinateurs et Graveurs, Paris, 1960; Wood, Christopher, Dictionary of Victorian Painters, Woodbridge, 1971; Johnson, J., and A. Gruetzner, Dictionary of British Artists 1880-1940, Woodbridge, 1980.