WILLIS, Henry Brittan

1810 - 1884

Henry Brittan Willis

Henry Brittan Willis, was born at Bristol in 1810 and baptised at Clifton, Bristol on 10 March 1811, son of John Willis, a minor artist & drawing master, and his wife Ann. He was probably instructed by his father and was a member of the Bristol Sketching Club whose members included William James Müller (1812-1845), Samuel Jackson (1794-1869) and Thomas Rowbotham (1782-1853). He married at St James's Church, Bristol on 3 August 1837, Elizabeth Anne Broughton, youngest daughter of Edward Broughton of Kingsdown, Kent and in 1841, a 30 year old artist, living at Marlbro Hill, St James, Bristol with his wife Elizabeth and his father-in-law, 70 year old Edward Broughton, a merchant, and sister-in-law Christiana Broughton. Having little success at Bristol, 32 year old Willis travelled to Buffalo, New York but had returned to London by 1843 when he began to exhibit the cattle pictures and drawings for which he became renowned. In 1851, a 40 year old artist, living at Lidlington Place, St Pancras, London with his 38 year old wife, born Rochester, Kent, his 83 year old father-in-law Edward Broughton and 40 year old unmarried sister-in-law Christiana Broughton. In 1861, a 49 year old artist 'cattle & landscape', living at 5 Hereford Square, Kensington, London with his 47 year old wife Elizabeth and on 8 June 1863 elected a full Member of the old Water-Colour Society. By 1871 he had moved to 12 Palace Gardens Terrace, Kensington. Willis painted rural landscapes in both oils and watercolour all over England, Scotland and Wales, often featuring groups of farm animals such as cattle or sheep and four of his works were engraved for the 'Art Union Annual' of 1847 and in 1849 he published 'Studies of Cattle and Rustic Figures'. Henry exhibited at the Royal Academy; British Institution and the Society of British Artists also showing his work outside London including the Liverpool Academy of Arts and, in 1850 at the Suffolk Fine Art Association [q.v.] at Ipswich he exhibited an oil, 'Hastings Castle by Moonlight' and a watercolour 'View of the Castle of Kautz, as seen from the Road leading to the Castle of Rheinfels, near St Goat on the Rhine'. Elected an associate of the Old Watercolour Society and a full member in 1863 and was a frequent contributor to the society's exhibitions. On 13 January 1874, much of Willis's art work was destroyed in a fire at the London Pantechnicon in Motcombe Street, Belgravia. In 1881, Henry was living at 5 Royal Terrace, Weston-super-Mere, Somerset, still with his wife and sister-in-law Christiana, but Willis died at his home at 12 Palace Gardens Terrace, Kensington, London on 17 January 1884, and buried at Kennington cemetery, Hanwell. His wife exhibited his 'Scene Near Hastings, Sussex' at the Royal Academy. National Portrait Gallery.

Works by This Artist