Benjamin Williams Leader was born in March 1831, in Worcester, England, as Benjamin Leader Williams. His father Edward was a notable civil engineer, as well as a rather talented amateur artist, who was friends with distinguished English artist John Constable. Therefore, his father certainly provided Benjamin with a deep artistic background, as they would often go on sketching trips along the River Severn.
Initially, Leader worked as a draughtsman at his father’s office, whilst studying art at the Worcester School of Design in the evenings. His free time was used to practice plein air landscape painting continuously. At the age of 23, Leader was admitted to the Royal Academy Schools in London. He exhibited Cottage children blowing bubbles at the institutions during his first year, an unusual prowess. His artwork would appear subsequently in every summer exhibition until Leader was 91 years old, in 1922.
Leader’s early inspiration was the countryside surrounding Worcester itself. Leader did not finish his studies at the Royal Academy, nor did he need to, for he proved to be an already talented enough artist, and his artwork had already achieved commercial success and was in high demand by wealthy buyers.
By 1857, the artist rearranged his name to Benjamin Williams Leader, to differentiate himself from several other artists with the surname Williams.
In the autumn of 1857, Leader went to Scotland, where he painted A Quiet Pool in Glenfalloch. The artwork was exhibited at the Royal Academy in 1859. This year was his most prolific yet, as well as lucrative, for all of his four paintings exhibited were promptly sold. On of said buyers was the Agnew’s art dealer, who bought several of Leader’s artworks during his lifetime. Most of the artist’s oeuvres are now in private collections and were never exhibited publicly.
For the following ten years, Leader spent most of his time traveling between Worcestershire, Severn Valley, and Wales, whilst executing several paintings. Amongst them is An Autumn Gleam, which was considered the best landscape painting in the Royal Academy’s exhibition of 1865.
In 1876, Leader married Mary Eastlake, a fellow artist. The couple had six children and one of them, Benjamin Eastlake Leader, who also became an artist, died in action during World War I.
In 1881, Leader was appointed as a Royal Academy Associate upon the exhibition of February Fill Dyke, which was received with great praise. The artist became a Royal Academician in 1898.
Benjamin Williams Leader died in 1923, in Surrey, England.