Francis John Williamson

Francis John Williamson (17 July 1833[1] – 12 March 1920[1]) was a British portrait sculptor,[2] reputed to have been Queen Victoria‘s favourite.[3]

Francis John Williamson

The sculptor’s bust of Queen Victoria
Born (1833-07-17)17 July 1833

Hampstead, London, England
Died 12 March 1920(1920-03-12) (aged 86)

Esher, Surrey, England
Nationality British
Occupation Sculptor

. . . Francis John Williamson . . .

After studying under John Bell he was an articled pupil of John Henry Foley for seven years, and his studio assistant for a further fourteen.[1]

Bust of Samuel Timmins in the Library of Birmingham

Williamson exhibited with the Royal Academy of Arts 38 times from 1853–1897.[1] and with the Royal Birmingham Society of Artists in 1868, when he showed several items, including a medallion depicting Mrs W. Wills, 1887 and 1902.[1] It was during his time with Foley that he first met Victoria.[1] In 1870, she commissioned a memorial to George IV‘s daughter Princess Charlotte and her husband Prince Leopold (Victoria’s uncle) which was erected inside their former home, Claremont.[1][4] (The memorial was subsequently moved to St George’s Church, Esher.[4]) Many members of the royal family subsequently sat for him,[1] and in 1887 he sculpted the (Golden) Jubilee bust of Queen Victoria, which was replicated for display around the British Empire.[1]

Williamson received a number of commissions from the municipal authorities in Birmingham. These included a marble bust of the Shakespearian scholar Samuel Timmins,[2] now in the Library of Birmingham, a statue of the dissenting theologian and natural philosopher Joseph Priestley, now in Chamberlain Square,[2] a statue of Sir Josiah Mason, (destroyed, but a 1952 bronze cast of the bust, by William Bloye, is in the suburb of Erdington), a statue of preacher and reformer George Dawson (since destroyed), a statue of John Skirrow Wright (also destroyed; a 1956 bronze cast of the bust by Bloye is in Birmingham Council House), and the decoration on the pediment of the Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery, a work known as the Allegory of Fame Rewarding the Arts.[2] A plaster cast of his bust of Tennyson (1893) is in the National Portrait Gallery.[5]

He met his future wife, Elizabeth Smith, while staying in Esher and they married in 1857[5] In 1860, they set up a home and him a studio at Fairholme, 79, High Street, Esher,[3][6] where he eventually died.[5] The building (later named “The Bunch of Grapes” and now “Grapes House”[5]) is extant,[3] and carries a blue plaque, erected by the Esher Residents Association in 2010, in commemoration of Williamson.[5]

His younger brother John Henry Williamson (born c.1843) was a silversmith.[1]

. . . Francis John Williamson . . .

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. . . Francis John Williamson . . .