Francis John Williamson (1833-1920)

The sculptor F. J. Williamson was born in Hampstead, London, and was trained by John Bell, through him meeting the important sculptor J. H. Foley. Williamson went to work for Foley, and stayed in his studio for most of the next two decades, first as student, then as assistant. Much of Williamson's later life was spent at Esher, where he settled with his family.

Williamson was patronised by Queen Victoria, and produced a goodly number of statues of her. His other work is mainly portrait statues and busts, including memorials.

Overall, Williamson's work consistently achieves a nobility through the classical style he favoured, and a calmness and peacefulness of composition. However, it seems to me he lacks some of the spark of the best portraitists.

Williamson's Queen Victoria statues include those in Croydon, Hastings, Wakefield and Paisley, with the finest example apparently being in Victoria Square, Christchurch, New Zealand (Williamson's statue of the first Bishop is in the Cathedral there). Among other portrait statues we may mention Priestley in Birmingham, the memorial to King Leopold and Queen Charlotte of the Belgians in Esher, and Sister Dora in Walsall. We must also note the charming Shrubsole Memorial Fountain, an allegorical group of a woman holding an urn, and a child, in Kingston upon Thames, and back in Birmingham, the allegorical sculpture for the pediment of the Museum and Art Gallery.

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