Circle of William Williams of Bristol

Portrait of a Gentleman
British/American, (1727-1791)
Oil on canvas

William Williams was born in Bristol in 1727. He was educated at his local grammar school before becoming a sailor. On his way to Virginia he was shipwrecked on the Moskito Coast of Nicaragua spending two years with the Rama Indians. From there he travelled to Philadelphia where he became an artist and also taught art. One of his pupils was Benjamin West (1738-1820).

He spent 3 decades in America and was married twice before returning to England after the death of his second wife and his two sons. He re-established contact with West and set up a studio in Bristol where he continued to paint. At some point he wrote a novel ‘The Journal of Llewellin Penrose, Seaman’, based on his experiences at sea, which many believe to be the first American novel . Williams sadly fell on hard times and died on 27 April, 1791 in the Merchants’ and Sailors’ Almshouse on King Street, Bristol.

Examples of his work can be found at the Bristol Museum, Brooklyn Museum and the Metropolitan Museum, New York.

The painting is housed in new, English made gilt frame which is in excellent condition.