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Zoomable Image of Portrait miniature of a Young Girl, wearing white bloused dress and brown ribbon in her hair

Portrait miniature of a Young Girl, wearing white bloused dress and brown ribbon in her hair

Alyn Williams P.R.M.S. (1865-1955)

Portrait miniature of a Young Girl, wearing white bloused dress and brown ribbon in her hair

Alyn Williams P.R.M.S. (1865-1955)

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Price:

£1,300

Materials:

Watercolour on ivory

Dimensions:

Oval, 3 ¾ in (95 mm) high

Provenance:

Private Collection, UK.

Inscriptions:

Signed on the obverse and dated 1908

Frame:

Gilt metal frame, the reverse glazed to reveal a lock of hair

Williams founded the Royal Society of Miniature Painters in 1896 and he was renowned for painting several members of the Royal Family including Queen Alexandra of Demark and her husband Edward VII...

Alyn Williams was one of the most celebrated portrait miniature painters of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries.

Williams’ depictions of children are incredibly distinctive, often painted with heightened sensitivity and ethereality. This portrait, which was purposely left sketchy around the border as if unfinished, gives the subject a subtle and dream-like presence with an echo of nostalgia. The identity of the young girl, who appears be between seven and ten years old, is at present unknown, although her flawless bloused dress suggests she came from a middle-class background.

Born to William Matthew Williams, a science teacher and author, and his wife Alice in 1865, Alyn trained at the Slade School in London and then at Académie Julian, a former art school in Paris where he produced large scale portraits. The turning point in Williams’ career was painting Miss Constance Yarrow in miniature in 1890; from then on he worked almost entirely in this format, exhibiting at the Royal Academy of Arts in London, the Royal Society of Miniature Painters, the Paris Salon and throughout the United States of America.[1]

In 1895 he married Kathleen Mary Humble and together had one son, Donald Matthieu Williams who was born a year later. By 1908 the couple had filed for divorce with Alyn Williams claiming his wife had had an affair and Kathleen Mary accusing her husband of prolonged cruelty; Donald was taken away from his mother and remained in the custody of his father.[2] Both Kathleen and Donald were killed in the First World War, Donald was killed in action at Sann-i-yat in 1916, having joined the Artists’ Rifles in September 1914 at the age of eighteen.[3] Williams went on to marry an American artist, Anna Vernon Dorsey and thereafter spent the majority of his successful career in both England and the States.[4]

Williams founded the Royal Society of Miniature Painters in 1896 and was President until 1898 and then again from 1908 until his death. He was the Vice-President of the Imperial Art League and a member of the Philadelphia Society of Miniature Painters. Amongst his American sitters were President William Howard Taft and Cardinal Gibbon and in England he was renowned for painting several members of the Royal Family including Queen Alexandra of Demark and her husband Edward VII; a version of which is owned by the Guildhall Art Gallery, London.

T.R. Reeve in his contemporary article on Williams describes his work as remarkable, never using photographs to create miniatures, something that was becoming increasingly common with nineteenth-century miniaturists, but working from sittings to capture every possible facial characteristic.[5] His work was exhibited in solo exhibitions at the Art Institute of Chicago (1914) and the National Gallery of Art (1925) and many of his pieces are owned by public collections including the Smithsonian Institution and Guildhall Art Gallery.[6]



[1] T.R. Reeve, ‘The Truth Lovingly Told; Alyn Williams Miniature Painter’, The Artist: Illustrated Monthly Records of Arts, Crafts and Industries (October 1899), p.26.

[2] The National Archives, Kew, England; Court for Divorce and Matrimonial Causes, later Supreme Court of Judicature: Divorce and Matrimonial Causes Files; Class: J 77; Piece: 956; Item: 9034

[3] De Ruvigny’s Roll of Honour 1914-18, A Biographical Record of Members of his Majesty’s Naval and Military Forces who fell in the Great War 1914-18, part 5, p.170; cited in Arturi Phillips, Dictionary of Miniature Painters 1870-1970 (2012), p.274

[4] Arturi Phillips, Dictionary of Miniature Painters 1870-1970 (2012), p.274

[5] T.R. Reeve, ‘The Truth Lovingly Told; Alyn Williams Miniature Painter’, The Artist: Illustrated Monthly Records of Arts, Crafts and Industries (October 1899), p.26.

[6] J. Aronson and M.E. Wieseman, Perfect Likeness (New Haven, 2006), p.320.


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