Henry Benjamin Roberts, RBA RI LA (1831-1915) One of the finest followers of William Henry Hunt, Henry Benjamin Roberts became best known for his scenes of rustic comedy in both oil and watercolour.
Henry Benjamin Roberts was born in London Road, Liverpool, on 5 February 1831, the son of Benjamin Roberts, a house decorator who also exhibited genre and still life paintings. Beginning his career in his father’s business, Henry painted in his spare time and then entered Liverpool Academy Schools as a probationer in 1850. It is believed that he also studied under William Fettes Douglas in Edinburgh in 1855. Like his father, he exhibited at the Liverpool Academy, in the years 1852-65, and was elected an associate in 1855 and a member in 1859. He married Ann Barton of Liverpool in 1860.
He also seems to have been elected to the Literary & Philosophical Society of Liverpool in 1861.
However, from 1859, Roberts exhibited in London, at the British Institution (until 1866) and the Royal Academy (until 1875). He had an address in the capital, at 38 Baker Street, by 1860, when he began to exhibit at the Society of British Artists. He was elected unanimously as an associate of the New Society of Painters in Water Colours in 1867, and a full member three years later. (He would resign in 1884.) Between 1869 and 1877, he also contributed to magazines, including The Illustrated London News and Once a Week. During this period, he was living at Haverstock Hill, first in St James’s Gardens (by 1867) and later at 14 Eton Villas, Eton Road (by 1878). He became a member of the Society of British Artists in 1878. Maintaining connections with his birthplace, he exhibited at the Liverpool Autumn Exhibition between 1871 and 1904.
Early in the 1880s, Roberts left London for Leyton in Essex, and spent time in Ness, Cheshire (1890), and Trefriw, Caernarvonshire (1895). He died at Leyton on 23 January 1915.
His work is represented in the collections of the Walker Art Gallery (Liverpool).
Further reading: Mary Bennett (ed), Merseyside. Painters, People & Places, Catalogue of Oil Paintings of the Walker Gallery, Liverpool – Text, Merseyside County Council, 1978, page 182