Benjamin Williams Leader was born in Worcester to Sarah Whiting and Edward Leader Williams, who was a civil engineer. His father was a keen amateur artist – a friend of the artist John Constable. His brother was also Edward Leader Williams, the civil engineer who designed the Manchester Ship canal.
Benjamin went to the Worcester Royal Grammar School and then worked as a draughtsman in his father’s office while studying at the Worcester School of Design in the evenings. At 23 he went to the Royal Academy schools in London and had a picture accepted for exhibition. He went on to exhibit in the summer exhibition every year until he was 91.
The Worcestershire countryside served as his early inspiration; the picturesque villages and churches, the fields and rivers. His work proved very popular and he sold successfully. As mentioned, he was a regular exhibitor at the RA. In 1859 he exhibited ‘A Quiet Pool in Glen Falloch’, following a trip to Scotland, which was bought by Agnew’s.
He changed his name to Benjamin Williams Leader in 1857 to distinguish himself from other artists named Williams. He married Mary Eastlake, a fellow artist, in 1876 and they had six children. In 1889 the family moved to a Norman Shaw designed house in Surrey where Benjamin died in 1923.
The fine detail in Leader’s early work is thought to be influenced by the Pre-Raphaelites but later on his style became looser and more impressionistic. He was made an associate of the Royal Academy in 1883 and became a Royal Academician in 1898. His paintings are exhibited at the Victoria and Albert Museum, Tate Gallery, Huddersfield Art Gallery, Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery, and in Worcester which holds the largest collection.