William Williams (1727-1791)
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William Williams was an American painter during the Colonial era. There is some speculation surrounding his birth and death dates; some say 1710-1790 while others say 1727-1791. Williams had a son, William Joseph Williams (1759-1823), who was also an American painter.
While little details are known about the life of Colonial era Williams, his paintings remain as some of the best examples of American art of their time.
Williams was born in England and moved to Philadelphia, Pennsylvania around 1747. He later moved to New York City and eventually moved back to England, where he lived in Bristol until his death.
Besides being a painter, Williams was also a novelist and became famous for his book “Penrose”, which is considered to the first American novel. This story about a sailor cast away to the New World is believed to be in part an autobiography, making many art historians believe that he was perhaps a mariner or sailor himself before coming to America.
There is little known about his formal or informal training, though it is likely that his earliest influences were other British artists, and it is very possible that he was self-taught. Williams influenced a number of artists himself both in America and England, including the famous American painter Benjamin West.
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