Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Williams, Penry

WILLIAMS, PENRY (1800?–1885), artist, was born about 1800 at Merthyr Tydvil, the son of a house-painter. Being sent to London by Sir John Guest and other gentlemen, he studied in the schools of the Royal Academy under Fuseli, and in 1821 gained a silver medal from the Society of Arts for a drawing from the antique. Commencing in 1822, he was a frequent exhibitor of portraits and views at the Royal Academy, British Institution, and Society of British Artists until 1827, when he settled at Rome. Thenceforward he devoted himself mainly to depicting Italian views and scenes of Roman life, and the pictures which he contributed to the Royal Academy down to 1869, painted in an attractive though conventional style, were much admired, and brought him many distinguished patrons. Among his best works were ‘The Festa of the Madonna dell' Arco,’ ‘Ferry on the River Ninfa,’ ‘Il Voto, or the Convalescent,’ ‘The Fountain: a Scene at Mola di Gaeta,’ ‘Italian Girls preparing for a Festa’ (engraved by D. Lucas, 1830), and ‘Procession to the Christening’ (engraved by L. Stocks for Finden's ‘British Gallery of Art’). The National Gallery possesses his ‘Neapolitan Peasants at a Fountain,’ ‘Wayside in Italy,’ and ‘The Tambourine,’ and the last two, which form part of the Vernon collection, were engraved by C. Rolls for the ‘Art Journal.’ Some of Williams's designs were engraved for the ‘Amulet’ (1827–30) and the ‘Literary Souvenir’ (1836). In April 1828 he was elected an associate of the Society of Painters in Watercolours, exhibiting annually until 1833, when he resigned. Williams was much esteemed by the residents in Rome, where he was a familiar figure for nearly sixty years, and his studio was one of the recognised attractions for English visitors. He died in Rome on 27 July 1885 in his eighty-sixth year, and his remaining works were sold at Christie's in the following year.

[Athenæum, 1885, ii. 185; Times, 4 Aug. 1885; Art Journal, 1864; Roget's Hist. of the ‘Old Watercolour’ Society.]

F. M. O'D.