WILLES, WILLIAM

(d. 1851)

Landscape and Subject Painter

From A Dictionary of Irish Artists 1913

Was born in Brown Street, Cork, the son of an apothecary. He was educated in the Edinburgh High School, and afterwards studied for the medical profession. Although he had had some lessons from Nathaniel Grogan, the Cork artist, he did not apply himself seriously to painting until his thirtieth year. He took a prominent part in organizing the exhibition held in Cork in 1815, known as "The first Munster Exhibition," and contributed a drawing and eight oil pictures, including a portrait of "Bishop Moylan," the head painted by John Corbett (q.v.). He then went to London and became a student in the Royal Academy. He began to exhibit in the Academy and in the British Institution in 1820. A large picture, "Danger," was in the British Institution in 1820, and a "Landscape Composition from the Electra of Sophocles" in 1821; a View of "Bear Island, Bantry Bay," was in the Academy the same year.

On account of ill-health he returned to Cork in 1823, but was again in London in 1829, and in that year exhibited two "Views of Killarney" in the Academy. In 1848 he exhibited "The Round Tower, Scattery Island"; and he sent a few works to the Royal Hibernian Academy in 1843, 1845, 1847, 1848 and 1849. He was a painter of some ability, a pleasant colourist and a good draughtsman. The "Mock Funeral" was accounted his best picture. Twenty-one of his drawings were engraved for Hall's "Ireland." On the foundation of the School of Design in Cork in 1849 he was appointed head-master. A clever and accomplished man, the school owed most of its success to his zeal and indefatigable labours, and to the enthusiasm he inspired in his pupils; and his local connection and popularity helped him to promote the objects of the school. He held the position for only a short time; his health failed, and after a prolonged illness he died in January, 1851.

He was brother of Sir James Shaw Willes, Justice of the Common Pleas in England.

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