Decorated initial W

IDGERY, William, landscape painter in oil and water-colour, born at Uppercot, Northmolton, 1822, worked in early life as a mason, and is a capital instance of the truth, that if there is genius in a man, it will come to the surface without any help, and in spite of the most adverse circumstances. He began painting in his leisure hours, and his friends thought much of his performances; but the man who had most influence in determining his future path in life was the late Mr. Thomas Hex, of St. Thomas, at whose inn the writer first saw Mr. Widgery's clever reproductions of some of Landseer's works, only known to the painter through the medium of engravings. At Mr. Hex's advice Widgery gave up his trade, and trusted his all to his success as an artist. He painted and sold many copies of Landseer and Rosa Bonheur, made portraits of cattle and horses, and drew scenes from the neighbourhood in oil; and although his work at first was of course that of a beginner, the writer and the late Dr. W. R. Scott, of the Deaf and Dumb Asylum, an excellent judge of art, used often to look at them when exposed for sale, and agree that the painter had a rare eye for, and was never wrong in, his colour. Indeed, colour has ever been his strong point.

Portrait of William Widgery, by his son Frederick John Widgery (click for more information).

Widgery had no instruction from any man, or any books. There was no art gallery in Exeter to instruct his eye. He went boldly out into the fields, and sat himself down with the colour that he gradually learned to select, and he painted what he [154/155] saw, with Nature his only master. The consequence is that he has followed no man. It is impossible to say that "Widgery is of the school of So-and-so," although at the present time all the young painters in Exeter are copying him. He has a style quite peculiar to himself, a style in which he catches effects, portrays rural scenes and wild landscapes boldly, and with very little finish. At the present date he has practised art for thirty years. He has painted over 3,000 pictures, and has sold them all; indeed, they are generally sold before they are off his easel, and any left the dealers are ready to take immediately. He twice visited Italy and Switzerland, and for a time he painted glacier streams, and snowy mountains, and views of Venice; but he soon returned to the scenery of his native county. He has painted the coasts of Devon and Cornwall, and is peculiarly happy in his delineation of wild seas dashing on a rugged iron-bound coast; but Dartmoor is the chief scene of his labours, and in after years he will be chiefly remembered as pre-eminently the painter of Dartmoor.

He is a correct and spirited painter of animals, and introduces them with good effect. His pictures are well composed, and he has the power of selecting picturesque bits, and of arranging his subject in a bold easy manner, that appears utterly unstudied. He possesses the ars celare artem to perfection. His touch is remarkably light and free; his colour is entirely without crudity or heaviness; he never uses any blue but cobalt, and every variety of green [155/156] and grey he makes with this, the lightest of colours. He mixes a little of this pigment with all his tints, and thus carries a softening atmospheric effect over the whole of the work. [154-56]


Pycroft, George. Art in Devonshire: with the biographies of artists born in that county. Exeter: Henry S. Eland, 1883. Internet Archive, from a copy in the Getty Research Institute. Web. 20 April 2024.

Created 20 April 2024