Antony Williams Gallery

Antony Williams Painting

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Antony Williams Painting

Antony Williams trained at Farnham College of Art and Portsmouth University in the UK. He works almost exclusively in egg tempera which can be a painstaking and exacting medium, but which allows him to express a deep feeling about the look of the world.

All of his work is based on direct and intense observation, can produce as a result a very heightened sense of realism, where every surface detail is given almost equal and constant consideration.

Art critic Martin Gayford writes:

“When Williams paints human faces and bodies in tempera – whether his own, or that of another sitter – he makes the viewer intensely aware of surface detail. One sees, more insistently perhaps than one does in life, the little marks of wear and tear, the furrows and wrinkles…

Williams’ still lifes and portraits – like much art – underline the passing of time and mortality. This was the reason no doubt why his fine portrait of the Queen caused controversy.

Inevitably, his method, his close vision, revealed that that these were in fact the face and hands of an ageing woman. That is not how everybody chooses to think of the monarch. But as a work of art, and an exercise in sober, careful truth – telling like the best of his work – it was indeed, very impressive.”



Farnham College and Portsmouth University.

Solo Exhibitions

  • Albemarle Gallery, London 1997
  • Sala Pares, Barcelona 1999
  • Messum’s, London 2000
  • Galeria Leandro Navarro, Madrid 2001
  • Petley Fine Art, London 2004
  • Messum’s, London 2009
  • Artur Ramon Gallery 2009
  • Messum’s, London 2013
  • Brian Sinfield Gallery, Burford 2014


  • Lynn Painter-Stainers Prize 2012, Winner
  • Lynn Painter-Stainers Prize 2007, Runner-Up Prize
  • Arts Club Prize 2004, 2008
  • Discerning Eye Award for Still Life1998
  • Ondaatje Prize, 1995, 2012
  • Carroll Foundation Award 1991, 1995
  • Changing Faces Prize 2010
  • Prince of Wales’s Award for Portrait Drawing 2014


  • New English Art Club (elected 2007)
  • Royal Society of Portrait Painters (elected 1996)
  • Pastel Society (elected 2007)


  • HRH The Queen
  • RT Hon Margaret Beckett MP
  • Sir Donald Sinden
  • Ömer Koc
  • Amartya Kumar Sen
  • Sir Alan Budd


  • Viscount Portland
  • Elaine and Melvin Merians
  • House of Commons
  • Garrick Club
  • National Portrait Gallery
  • Royal Society of Portrait Painters 1995- 2011
  • Queen’s College Oxford
  • Private Collections in England, Rep. of Ireland and USA
  • The Royal Collection
  • Omer Koc

Group Exhibitions

  • Royal Society of Portrait Painters, 1995 – 2018
  • Threadneedle Figurative Prize, Mall Galleries, London 2008, 2012
  • Pastels Today, Southampton City Art Gallery 2008
  • Artonomy, Drawing Exhibition, Truro 2007
  • Lynn Painter – Stainers Prize, London 2007, 2012
  • Royal Society of Portrait Painters Exhibition, Mall galleries, London 1995 – 2015
  • Pastel Society, Mall Galleries, London 1996, 2000, 2008-2012, 2014, 2015
  • BP Portrait Award Exhibition, National Portrait Gallery, London 1995, 1998, 2005, 2007, 2010, 2014, 2015, 2018
  • Royal Society of Portrait Painters, Self – Portraits Exhibition, 2 Temple Place, London 2007
  • Great Britons, Treasures from the National Gallery, London at the National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian Inst., Washington, DC, 2007
  • The School of London and Their Friends (The Collection of Elaine and Melvin Merians) Yale Centre for British Art: New Haven, Connecticut 2000
  • Hunting Art Prize Exhibition, Royal College of Art 1998
  • Discerning Eye, Mall Galleries, London 1996, 1998, 2002
  • Royal Academy of Arts, London: Summer Exhibition 1992, 1995, 1996, 1998, 2001, 2002, 2003, 2007, 2010, 2011, 2014
  • Laing Art Competition Exhibition, Mall Galleries, London 1995
  • Waterman Fine Art, London 1995, 1996
  • Mercury Gallery, London 1994
  • New English Art Club, Mall Galleries, London 1992, 2007-2010
  • Royal Society of British Artists 1991

Selected Bibliography

  • Oliver Lange, The Artist, March 2008
  • Brian Sewell, ‘How ugly can the faces get?’, Evening Standard, June 2007
  • Brian Sewell, Catalogue Introduction, Petley Fine Art, November 2004
  • Martin Gayford, Catalogue Introduction,Messums, November 2000
  • Laura Gascoigne, ‘Portrait of an inner self’, Artist & Illustrators, December 2000
  • Nicholas Usherwood, Galleries, December 2000
  • Julian Halsby, The Artist, May 1999
  • Antony J Lester, Antique Collecting, September 1998
  • Martin Gayford, The Spectator, November 1997
  • Martin Gayford, ‘Are our portrait painters all fingers and thumbs?’, Daily Telegraph, October 1997
  • David Lee, Art Review, November 1997
  • Martin Gayford, Catalogue Introduction, Albemarle Gallery, October 1997
  • Sarah Boseley, `Queen- Warts and all`, The Guardian, May 1996
  • W F Deedes, ‘Portrait captures Queen’s troubles’, Daily Telegraph, May 1996
  • Nigel Reynolds, ‘Are these really the Queen’s hands?’, Daily Telegraph, May 1996


Interview with Antony Williams (BP Portrait Award 2017 3rd Prize)

This post includes:

  • my video interview with Antony Williams
  • more about Antony Williams and a summary of his track record to date as a portrait painter
  • more about other people who have won third prize eg Benjamin Sullivan (who won 3rd Prize in 2015) and David Jon Kassan (who won third prize in 2014)

Antony won the BP Portrait Award Third Prize of £8,000 for his egg tempera painting of Emma Bruce who had been modelling for Williams almost continuously for eleven years in his studio in Chertsey

Antony Williams with his Third Prize and his prize-winning portrait
Egg tempera on board, (690 x560mm,
You’ll see from my “More about Antony Williams’ section below that Antony is a professional painter who is very experienced and well regarded. He has won a number of prizes and awards and his portraits are in a number of collections, notably the Royal Collection, the House of Commons and the National Portrait Gallery.

Below is my video of my interview with Antony. I asked him about

  • the impact of being in the BP Portrait Exhibition – he first exhibited age 26 and then got caught by the age 40 limit before this was lifted – and he started submitting and exhibiting again (you can see some of his other BP exhibits below)
  • his advice for people wanting to get into the BP Portrait Award exhibition and/or a BP Portrait Award
  • the benefits of being in the exhibition
  • the interest in his use of the egg tempera media

Antony encourage other portrait painters to also use egg tempera and submit their paintings to the annual exhibitions of the BP Portrait Award!

His technique isn’t obvious from digital images so I’ve done a crop of the portrait to illustrate how Antony works and why people are so interested in his use of egg tempera and how he applies it – using hatching strokes. Right click the image below and open in a new tab to see his technique even more clearly.

Crop of Emma – demonstrating Antony’s egg tempera technique
copyright Antony Williams

More about Antony Williams RP PS NEAC

Key facts are

  • Age: 53 years (23.06.1964)
  • Nationality: British
  • Occupation: established portrait artist, member of the Royal Society of Portrait Painters
  • Current home: UK
  • Art education: Farnham College and Portsmouth University
  • Media used: Egg tempera
  • Previous appearances in this award: 1995, 1998, 2005, 2007, 2010, 2014 and 2015

Figure lying by water by Antony Williams
egg tempera
Exhibited BP Portrait Award Exhibition 2015

  • Previous notable portraits for this award:
  • Previous commissions for the National Portrait Gallery Collection: portrait of Amartya Sen (2003)
  • Previous notable awards and prizes:
  • Ondaatje Prize, 1995, 2012
  • Lynn Painter-Stainers Prize 2012, Winner
  • Lynn Painter-Stainers Prize 2007, Runner-Up Prize
  • Changing Faces Prize 2010
  • Prince of Wales’s Award for Portrait Drawing 2014
  • Arts Club Prize 2004, 2008
  • Discerning Eye Award for Still Life 1998
  • Carroll Foundation Award 1991, 1995

Profile of Emma by Antony Williams
exhibited in BP Portrait Award 2014
copyright Antony Williams
Signature Member of:
Royal Society of Portrait Painters (elected 1996)
New English Art Club (elected 2007)
Pastel Society (elected 2007)
Work in Private Collections in England, Rep. of Ireland and USA; plus
The Royal Collection
House of Commons
National Portrait Gallery
Queen’s College Oxford
Garrick Club
Exhibitions: various solo exhibitions; Royal Academy of Arts Summer Exhibition (1992, 1995, 1996, 1998, 2001, 2002, 2003, 2007, 2010, 2011, 2014); regularly exhibits with Royal Society of Portrait Painters (1995 – 2017)
Facebook Account:


Antony Williams’ most recent painting, Umbrian Swimming Pool, is like a collision between David Hockney and the early Italian Renaissance master, Piero della Francesca.

In the 1960s and ‘70s Hockney virtually appropriated the swimming pool as his signature subject. His paintings, in scintillating pop colours, with light bouncing off shimmering water in Los Angeles and Provence, helped make him famous. But it is more than the same subject matter that strikes you here.

Because in Williams’ painting there’s also something of that same quality of unease that infiltrates Hockney’s Portrait of an Artist (Pool with Two Figures) – his 1972 painting that only late last year broke the auction record for a work by a living artist.

Though Williams’ much sparer painting is completely devoid of figures, it contains a similar brooding impression of slight discomfort as we wait – expectantly – for a swimmer to break the gentle film of water and rupture the careful sense of order the pool conveys.

And of course Williams’ swimming is really nothing quite like Hockney’s. It is Piero della Francesca who makes the difference. He delivers the precision to Umbrian Swimming Pool – the sense of design, the perspective, the very real aura of a hot Italian landscape, and the technique – egg tempera.

To a British audience, Piero della Franscesca’s best-known painting is surely The Baptism of Christ in the National Gallery. Painted in around 1440, it too uses the age-old method of mixing pigment with water and egg yolk.

Tempera is a very precise, very time consuming way of working, and one that was increasingly superseded later in the fifteenth century by oil paints.

(Indeed, many of Piero della Francesca’s subsequent paintings were made using oils.) It is a technique, though, to which Williams is wholly devoted, as he meticulously covers his panel with endless tiny brushstrokes.


He started using tempera in the early 1990s, and it’s the medium in which he made his remarkable portrait of the Queen in 1996 – a painting that, despite the controversy it caused (particularly in his representation of Her Majesty’s fingers), helped launch his career. Tempera forces the artist to work slowly.

Piero della Francesca, like Williams, worked slowly, and both painters maintain the same constancy of careful technique across the whole of their panel. This helps to create a lot of their heightened sense of reality.

As in Williams’ Umbrian Swimming Pool, a tree dominates della Francesca’s Baptism, each of its many leaves painted in the same careful, scrupulous detail.

And both works focus on the symbolic importance of water. Yet the figures that crowd della Francesca’s scene are absent from Williams’ work. Once again, looking at his painting, we simply wait, expectantly, for something – anything – to break the sense of heat and stillness.

This feeling of something uncertain about to happen – or that might just have happened – is characteristic of much of Williams’ recent work. At least three of his new paintings, Figure Lying by Water, Figure at Gracious Pond and Beyond the Pines, are based on his exploration of the landscape around Chobham Common, near his home in Surrey.

Williams has lived all his life in the county, and from a young age holidayed by the Wey and the Thames with his widowed mother and his four young siblings, playing in the water meadows and among the wooden shacks that once lined the rivers. It is these early memories, and the experience of paternal loss, that perhaps resonate as echoes in these waterside works.

There is also something maybe significant in the artist’s recent change of studio. For many years he worked in a rented room in a large house on the High Street in Chertsey.

But following the death of his landlady, Margaret Robinson, whom he had painted assiduously, annually, for sixteen years, he had to find a new place to paint. By good fortune this led him to Platt’s Eyot, a large island on the Thames near Hampton, on the fringes of south London.

A location for many decades of boatbuilding, its sheds and warehouses now stand empty and derelict – or are reused for an odd array of small businesses. It is a slightly eerie, abandoned place, one that perfectly suits Williams’s isolated way or working.

His subjects and life models visit him there, to have their portraits painted. In View from Platts Eyot, one of his regular female models stares out of the studio window in still concentration, looking towards the far bank of the river, at a scene where, unsettlingly, nothing appears to be happening.

If there is no-one visiting him, Williams works on a still life of his plastic dinosaurs – toys that also perhaps unwittingly hark back to his childhood. But Williams emphasizes that whilst he intends the sense of mystery that imbues many of his paintings, an actual sense of story is not important to them. They are left open to interpretation.

He is conscious that people will bring a different narrative, a different experience or emotion to their own encounter with one of his works. It is just one of the things that makes them so appealing, so successful.

Everything he paints is created using a multitude of tiny gestural marks, displaying the infinite patience of his semi-pointillist technique.

And what goes on beneath the surface paint is just as important as the lines that go on top – there is a lot of trial and error involved in creating each of these paintings.

In the late 1980s through to the early mid 90s he was working like David Bomberg and Frank Auerbach, making large gestural views of London and the Lakes in thick charcoal and oil paint.

Something of those powerful gestures still lingers in his work, though now each is writ incredibly small in an infinity of tiny strokes. It is this same process of almost endless mark making that lends the instantly eye catching power to his portraits.

We seem to see the actual flesh beneath the skin, and the veins within the flesh, and even the water in a sitter’s rheumy eyes. And here again we encounter the collision of old with new, as Lucian Freud seems to meet the early Flemish portraiture of Jan van Eyck – both painters that Williams greatly admires. He clearly loves the careful process of painting – thrives on it, even.

Tempera, as he explains, ‘is more akin to pencil drawing. Lean and economical, it is not so expressive as oils, it limits you in some ways, and I like that limiting factor, of working within its possibilities. It’s like a straitjacket that has focused me.’ This attention to the endless brushstrokes, always careful adjusting, modifying, looking, gives him the sense that he is doing something that no-one else is quite doing.

It is a technique that has brought him considerable success and recognition. His portraits are in the collections of the National Portrait Gallery, the House of Commons, Lord’s Cricket Ground and the Royal Society of Portrait Painters. Through patient hard work and a distinctive vision, it is a success that has been well and justly won.

David Boyd Haycock
April 2019
Author and curator

British Artist Antony Williams Painting
British Artist Antony Williams Painting


Antony Williams Paintings


Via: Antony Williams Website