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Grecian Williams (Hugh William Williams) (1773-1829)


Hugh William Williams, FRSE (1773-1829), known as ‘Grecian Williams’

Grecian Williams was instrumental in the development of the landscape watercolour, and particularly in Scotland, he having moved there from England during the 1780s, while still a child. His tour of Italy and Greece transformed his work and career, and led to his receiving his pseudonym, ‘Grecian’.

For a long time, it was believed that Hugh William Williams was born the son of a Welsh sea captain on board a ship destined for the West Indies. It now seems more likely that he was born in Devon, and probably to John Williams and his wife, Mary (née Soper), of Honiton. However, nothing certain is known about his childhood.

By 1790, Williams had moved to Edinburgh, and had become the ward of Louis Ruffini, a Turin-born manufacturer of embroidered muslin who may have been related by marriage to Williams’ father. Having studied pattern design and other skills under David Allan, he seems to have worked at Ruffini’s factory in Dalkeith, southeast of Edinburgh.

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