Sculptors: Victorian and later

Francis John Williamson (1833-1920)

F.J. Williamson was notable above all as a portrait sculptor in late Victorian times, his works including several public statues of Queen Victoria.

Figure of Priestley for Birmingham, by F. J. Williamson.

The sculptor F. J. Williamson was born in Hampstead, London, and was trained by John Bell, and it was through him that he met 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 (see the page on Christ Church, Esher).

Williamson was patronised by Queen Victoria, and produced a goodly number of statues of her. His other work is mainly portrait statues and busts (some 200 in all, apparently), including memorials. He did however produce some small number of ideal and allegorical works, of such subjects as Spring, Autumn and Sunrise.

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).

Kingston Upon Thames, Shrubsole Monument.

Among other portrait statues we may mention Priestley in Birmingham, the memorial to King Leopold and Queen Charlotte of the Belgians in St George Church Esher, and Sister Dora in Walsall. Several examples of his funereal monuments are in the churchyard of Christ Church, Esher. We must also note the charming Shrubsole Memorial Fountain, an allegorical group of a woman holding an urn, with her child, in Kingston upon Thames, and back in Birmingham, the allegorical sculpture for the pediment of the Museum and Art Gallery (for some pictures, see this page).

More examples of work by F. J. Williamson are on this page.

Williamson's family tomb in Esher.