PERCY, Sidney Richard
(b. 1821, London, d. 1886, Sutton)


English painter, part of the Williams family of painters.

The Williams family of painters played an prominent role in English art throughout the nineteenth century. The family's involvement in the visual arts began when Edward Williams (1782-1855) was sent to live with his mother's brother, James Ward, RA, in 1792-93. Ward was a well-respected figure painter who introduced young Williams to the academic art world of late eighteenth century London. The young Williams was apprenticed to Thomas Hilliard, a gilder, and he worked for him a number of years while simultaneously studying painting. Sometime in the early 1800s he seems to have begun exhibiting his work professionally, and it was also in these years that he married Ann Hildebrand, who gave birth to their first son, Edward Charles, in 1807. Five more sons followed between 1811 and 1824. All of them became artists.

Sidney Richard Percy Williams was the fifth son, born in 1821. Following his older brothers' example, he learned to paint from his father, and was launched as a professional artist by the 1840s, debuting at the Royal Academy in 1842. By the time he was twenty, Percy had moved to his own lodgings and had dropped "Williams" from his name in order to avoid confusion with the rest of the Williams brothers painters.

In 1846, Edward Williams decided to move the entire family to Barnes on Thames, then a country resort area in what is today southwest London. Once there, all of them shared a studio at 32 Castelnau Villa and essentially formed the core of what became known as the "Barnes School" in the nineteenth century.

Percy's career was well established by the time he moved to Barnes, where he enjoyed growing success, both critical and public, in the decade between 1846-1856. He was increasingly recognized as a gifted landscape painter, with a particular interest in the romantic wilderness scenes found in Wales and Scotland. During this time Percy also became an amateur photographer, using his images as source material for his paintings. His reputation as an artist reached a memorable pinnacle shortly after the Royal Academy exhibition in 1854 when Prince Albert purchased A View of Llyn Dulyn, North Wales for his wife, Queen Victoria.

Percy traveled Venice and Paris, then more extensively to Wales, Scotland and the Hebrides. He exhibited regularly at the annual exhibitions of the Royal Academy, the British Institute and the Suffolk Street Galleries. He submitted A View on the Banks of the Thames - After the Storm (1851) to the annual Salon exhibition in Paris in 1863. It was well received by both the public and the critics.

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