The Prime Minister David Lloyd George described Christopher Williams as ‘one of the most gifted artists Wales has produced’. The artist had admirers of the highest ranks possible during his life time but it is only during the past few years that his works have been truly appreciated. Although he was a popular portrait artist to the wealthy and eminent characters of society, his epic works of biblical and mythical themes were unfairly slighted by the critics of the early twentieth century for they were deemed unfashionable for the period.
Christopher Williams as well as being a gifted artist was a passionate Welshman who was born in Maesteg, Bridgend in South Wales in 1873. In the 1890s Williams studied at the National Art Training School at South Kensington, London (now the Royal College of Art) and at the Royal Academy Schools where he was taught to revere the Old Masters. By 1904 he had settled in London but Williams often visited Wales and during one of his visits called upon Sir John Williams (1840-1926) physician, baronet and founder of the National Library of Wales, Aberystwyth at his home in Plas Llansteffan, Carmarthenshire. He hoped to discuss the new national institutions of Wales with Williams –but also left with a 100-guinea commission to paint this portrait of Sir John. He became heavily influenced by Sir John William’s views of Wales and ‘Welshness’ and through him was introduced to many eminent Welsh scholars.
Williams was determined to be a ‘Welsh’ painter and became part of the so called Second Celtic Revival. In 1904 he visited the Celtic Congress in Caernarfon which prompted Williams to give a voice to his ‘Welshness’.
Today Williams’ works are being re-evaluated and fully appreciated for their great insight, national relevance and genius. Williams wrote in 1894: ‘…I hope in a short time London will see more Welshmen taking a prominent part in Art. And this I am convinced of, that when Art is cultivated in Wales that Cymru will lead on both in painting and sculpture as they do at the present day in Music’.