Benjamin Williams Leader RA, View Over Rolandseck

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A beautiful little oil sketch by Benjamin Williams Leader RA (1831-1923), one of the most acclaimed Victorian landscape painters of his generation.

It depicts a picturesque scene in Rhineland, Germany, and features several figures, an extensive mountain range, a riverbank, and a sailboat. As the sun emerges from behind a cloud, the river glistens bright white and various shades of blue.

Leader was born in Worcester and gained a fondness for art after accompanying his father, also an artist, on painting trips along the River Severn. At times, when the easel was left unattended, Leader (Jnr) would surreptitiously apply his own touches to the canvas.

At this point in time, John Constable was a good friend of the family and his influence is clear to see in many of Leader’s landscapes. However, Constable’s romantic depictions of English rural idylls didn’t define the young artist, as he also developed an appreciation for impressionism after visiting Paris.

In this quick oil sketch, he adopts an impressionistic style and uses loose intelligent brushstrokes to create complicated ideas. The sun is little more than a dot, yet feels warm, obvious, and vivid.

Between 1854 and 1923, Leader exhibited 216 paintings at the Royal Academy and was a commercial success during his lifetime. A piece entitled ’Llugwy, Bettws-y-coed’ is also held within the Royal Collection.

His works are currently displayed publicly at the Victoria and Albert Museum, the Tate Gallery in London, Manchester Art Gallery, Birmingham Museum, and in Worcester.

Oil on board
Size including frame
11” x 7½” / 28cm x 19cm
Year of creation
c. 1901
Overall it’s in good shape with no losses. The back of the board has some wear as you can see from the photo. The frame is contemporary and has been handmade.
Artist’s auction highlight
£145,000 achieved at Sotheby’s for ‘Summer's Day, when the South Wind congregates in Crowds’. For comparison, a similar oil sketch by Leader sold at a recent auction for £840 before fees. In our opinion, this one has a superior frame.