Benjamin Williams Leader RA

On the Llugwy, Wales

Benjamin Williams Leader RA

On the Llugwy, Wales

This exquisite 19th-century oil painting by eminent British artist Benjamin Williams Leader (1831-1923) depicts a scenic view on the River Llugwy.

Breathe it in, the gentle environs of North Wales captured by a master of the British countryside. Leader adored life on the Llugwy, returning time and time again, fascinated by the light and fusion of the elements. It’s all here, shimmering waters, imposing peaks, and boundless skies brimming with cloud effects. His attention to detail was borne from an obsession to capture nature truthfully. With meticulous handling, he’d work tirelessly, at times taking vast canvases outdoors to study from life. He also produced numerous sketches ahead of finished works.

Wherever you rest your eyes, there’s joy. The deftly rendered figures, the gentle hint of smoke rising from the partially hidden cottage, the illuminated hay cart in the distance, and the diagonal line of trees.

The composition is also masterly. We’re given a clear division. Go left, there’s activity, figures, trees clinging to a bank, and a hazy undulant horizon. Go right, and there’s the gradual darkening of foliage, a cottage and a peak.

1879 was a particularly busy year for Leader, at a personal and artistic level. His father, Edward Leader Williams, became ill in February and subsequently passed away. And in November, his wife, the artist Mary Eastlake, gave birth to their third child, Beatrice. These sizable life events occurred at a time when he’d become fixated, much like Constable before him, on his lack of progress at the Royal Academy.

The River Llugwy was a continual source of inspiration and as such numerous works exist which feature the river. He wasn’t particularly imaginative with the titles, so several of these are referred to in the archives as simply ‘On The Llugwy’. Many are in public collections including at the National Museum Cardiff (On the Llugwy below Capel Curig), Bristol Museum & Art Gallery (On the Banks of the Llugwy), Royal Collection Trust (The River Llugwy near Bettws-y-Coed) and a remarkable flood scene at St John's College, University of Oxford (Llugwy in Flood).

During the late 1870s, he was selling works privately, via exhibitions and also through dealers such as Arthur Tooth, Thomas Wallis, and Thomas Agnew & Sons. So it’s entirely plausible that this piece passed through their hands.

The first time it appears in the contemporary auction records is in 1987 when it sold through Christie’s for £24,000. The highest amount paid for a Leader work depicting this iconic river.

It’s a sublime piece, worthy of any museum, and a fine example of his work.

Signed/dated lower left and held within a later frame.

Medium: Oil on canvas
Overall size: 42½” x 30½” / 108cm x 77cm
Year of creation: 1879
Provenance: Private collection, England.
Condition: Artwork presents well. Canvas relined.
Artist’s auction maximum: £145,000

Benjamin Williams Leader RA

Benjamin Williams Leader RA

Benjamin Williams Leader trained at Royal Academy Schools. He exhibited extensively including at the Royal Academy for 68 consecutive years. He’s represented at the V&A, Tate Gallery in London, Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery, and the Worcester City Art Gallery & Museum, which holds a particularly large collection.

Learn more about Benjamin Williams Leader RA in our directory.

Conservation & History

We care profoundly about our role as custodians and every piece in the collection has been assessed by our conservator. When required, we undertake professional restoration carefully using reversible techniques and adopt a light touch to retain the aged charm of each work. We also restore frames rather than replace them as many are original and selected by the artists themselves.

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