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Evening in Worcestershire [Landscape and Village]

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Evening in Worcestershire [Landscape and Village]

Artist: Benjamin William Leader (British (1831-1923))

Date: 1892
Medium: Oil on canvas
Overall: 18 3/4 × 30in. (47.6 × 76.2cm)
Signed: Lower left: 'B.W. Leader 1892'
Credit Line: Proctor Collection
Object number: PC. 69
Label Text
Benjamin Williams Leader was born Benjamin Leader Williams in March of1831 in Diglis, Worcester City, England. A keen amateur artist in his own right, Leader's father encouraged his son's artistic aspirations and supported his son's decision to focus not on science, which he had spent a great deal of his youth pursuing, but instead on art. While attending the Royal Grammar School in Worcester City, Leader enrolled in evening courses at the Worcester School of Design, in 1854, Leader became a student at the Royal Academy Schools, where during his first year a painting of his was exhibited and sold in the Summer Exhibition. In 1857, Leader changed his name from Benjamin Leader Williams to Benjamin Williams Leader in order to distinguish himself from the legion of artists called Williams At the beginning of Leader's career, brightly colored, highly detailed, Pre-Raphaelite inspired landscape paintings of the surrounding English countryside dominated his artistic output, gradually changing his style to a looser, less detailed depiction of landscapes later in his career. Although he was a rapid worker whose works were characterized by a loose style, Leader's method was full of conscientious care, crafting numerous plein air studies before settling down to work on a picture in the studio. Throughout his career Leader created a multitude of landscape depictions of the countryside surrounding Worcester, paintings that proved to be very popular among the general public who searched for nostalgic depictions of their hometowns. Leader married Mary Eastlake, becoming in 1883 an Associate of the Royal Academy, and in 1898, at the age of sixty-seven, a full Academian. Working up until the very end of his life, Leader exhibited three paintings at the Royal Academy in 1922, at the age of ninety-one years old, dying the next year in Surrey, England, at the age of ninety-two.
Benjamin William Leader's 1892 landscape titled Evening in Worcestershire depicts a bucolic village in the West Midlands of England as the sun sets, reflecting magnificent pink, orange and azure light in the marsh in the foreground. Compared to Leader's most popular subject matter, winter scenes with bare trees and an atmosphere of bleakness, this scene is extraordinary lively with villagers and sheep alike walking down a dirt path leading to the steeple of what could only be the town church, little puffs of gray smoke emanating from thatched roofed cottages, a consummately British touch in a consummately British scene. This beautifully luminous scene is enhanced by its ornate, original gilded frame, the golden sheen of the frame enhancing the radiant, incandescent scene it surrounds. Leader's connection to the Munson-Williams-Proctor families did not end with the 1892 purchase of Evening in Worcestershire by Helen Munson Williams. In September if 1895 a family member visited the studio of Benjamin Williams Leader, describing the artist as "not of the longhaired artist type, or the shiftless, hand to mouth sort, but has had the good fortune to suit the popular and the good sense to go in his successful vein, without trying to untrodden fields." This work, now proudly displayed in the second floor hallway at Fountain Elms following a lengthy restoration, transports the viewer back to a Romanticized version of Victorian England, a vision of the innocence and beauty of country life.
Gordon Dearborn Wilkins
Hamilton College Intern, 2010

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