Benjamin Williams Leader RA (1831-1923)

B. W. Leader was born in Worcester, and grew up with the expectation of becoming a civil engineer, as his father was, but early on turned to art. He went to Worcester Government School of Design, and in 1854 to the Royal Academy Schools, exhibiting there his first work, 'Cottage Children blowing Bubbles'. Further domestic genre subjects followed, but he quickly found his metier to be landscape, and through his very long career (his last exhibited picture at the Royal Academy was in 1922) he was noted as one of the foremost landscape painters. He was elected Associate of the Academy in 1883, and full Academician in 1898. As well, he received a variety of honours and gold medals from exhibitions and institutions in France and America.

Leader's earlier pictures at least show a Pre-Raphaelite love of detail. His subjects for landscape vary widely, including both wilderness and rural farmland scenes, with and without people present, mountains, flat land and shore. But perhaps most characteristic and exceptional are his studies of trees, in a perfect evening light, and it is remarkable the degree to which this light is captured even in some black and white etchings of his work.

His work may be seen in many art galleries, and any display purporting to be representative of Victorian landscape painting would be incomplete indeed without a picture by Leader.

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