SYMONDS, William Robert

1851 - 1934

William Robert Symonds - self-portrait

William Robert Symonds, was born at Yoxford, Suffolk on 25 February 1851, eldest child of Nathaniel William Symonds (1822-1872), grocer & draper, and his wife Susannah née Cotton (born 1830), who married at Yoxford in 1849. About 1860 the family moved to 37 Tavern Street, Ipswich where Nathaniel was a master boot & shoe maker and in 1871 they were living at 17 Cobbold Street, Ipswich where Nathaniel was a ‘woollen draper’. Educated at a private school in Ipswich and in 1867, 16 year old W. R. Symonds of Ipswich, exhibited crayon drawings at the Needham Market Fine Arts and Industrial Exhibition, held in the Lecture Room at the Town Hall, which won a bronze medal. William was an ‘art student’, studying under William Thompson Griffiths [q.v.] at Ipswich Art School before proceeding to the Royal Academy Schools where, in 1873, awarded the ‘premium for the best drawing from the Antique.’ William then spent several months in Antwerp and on his return to England specialised in portrait painting. In 1875, an artist with a studio at 2 Princes Street, Ipswich, later using one of the Christchurch Park Lodges then in Soane Street, and in 1881 was living at Ringham Road, Ipswich, where his widowed mother acted as his housekeeper. A member of the Ipswich Fine Art Club 1876-1934, being elected president in 1889, and he undertook several mayoral portraits in Ipswich and two of his oils 'Girl with Silver Fish' and 'The Princess and the Frog' were on display at their 1974 centenary exhibition. In 1881 he exhibited at Ipswich, a portrait of Sterling Westhorp and exhibited in 1882 from his studio at Holland Park Road, Kensington but 1883-1885, when living at The Mount, Ringham Road, Ipswich, exhibited from his studio in Soane Street, Ipswich in 1883, four portraits in oil 'Mrs Cheston', 'Portrait', 'Jim, grandson of Sir James Anderson', 'Daniel Lister' and a drawing 'Portrait Study' and was a regular exhibitor, his last was in 1933 from 17 Upper Cheyne Row, Chelsea, London 'Study of an Old Woman's Head'. He also exhibited in 1889 at the Woodbridge Fine Art Exhibition at the Assembly Room, Bull Hotel, Woodbridge a portrait, 'Mr G. M. Sexton' and from his London studio he exhibited at Birmingham Royal Society of Artists; Glasgow Institute of the Fine Arts; the Walker Art Gallery, Liverpool; Manchester City Art Gallery; New Gallery; the Royal Academy; Grosvenor Gallery; Royal Institute of Oil Painters; Royal Society of Portrait Painters, of which he was a member, and the Paris Salon between 1851 and 1934. He married by special license at 4 Sunmount, Cork in Ireland on 17 April 1886, Margaret Hogg Swan (1858-1937), second daughter of the late Robert Weymss Swan of Cork and they had a son Robert Weymss Symonds (31 December 1889–5 September 1958), when Robert's address was The Studio, Holland Park Road, Kensington. In 1901 they were living at Cornwall Lodge, 2 Rowan Road, Brook Green, Hammersmith. Symonds died at 17 Upper Cheyne Row, Chelsea on 7 November 1934. His portraits are in the Wallace Collection, Army Medical School, Queen's College, Belfast, Ipswich Museums, Royal Victoria Hospital, Netley; Oriel College, Magdalen College and Pembroke College, Oxford. He signed his works 'W. R. Symonds' underlined or 'W. R. S.'.

Works by This Artist