George Alfred Williams

Birth: 1875

George Alfred Williams (1875-????) was born in Newark, New Jersey, in 1875, the 1st of 3 sons of Alfred Gardner Williams (of Owosso, MI) and Elizabeth Bishop Havell (of Newark, NJ). His father was involved in the manufacturing of "fancy metal goods" in Newark, and later retired to East Orange by 1920. George grew up in Newark, the family living at 319 Belleville Ave. continuously since about 1875. There he met Clara G. Andrews, a local girl, and may have been impressed with her creative mind; he married her at Newark's Trinity Church on Feb. 24th, 1903. He was 28 years old; she was a little younger, then being 21.

The Williams's raised a family of 5 in all: 1. John G. "Jack", b.1905 2. Bertha E. "Betty", b.1908 3. Robert H., b.1920 4. Marianna L., b.1922, and 5. Rushforth, b.1925. They lived in Summit (NJ) through 1910, moving within Union county to New Providence by 1920, and in 1922 moved out of state to Kennebunkport, Maine.

Engaged in a large mechanical business from seventeen to twenty he spent his spare time in drawing and painting, without formal instruction. Watercolors made at this time were accepted by the American Watercolor Society. Mr. Alexander W. Drake, art editor of the Century Magazine, then encouraged him to give up a business career, and procured a commission to illustrate for the "St. Nicholas Magazine".

After this he entered the Art Students League under Douglas Volk and Kenyon Cox, and later painted with William M. Chase. Commissions for the "Century Magazine" then followed, the first important one being a drawing on "The East Side" for an article by Mrs. Schuyler Van Rensselaer. This led to commissions from Scribner's and Harper's among others. Mr. Williams then made illustrations for editions of the English classics, such as Smollet, Felding, and Defoe, published by the University Press; also decorations and illustrations for Richard Le Gallienne's translation of Wagner's "Tristan and Isolde." These illustrations were later purchased by the Newark Museum Association, New Jersey.

At the completion of this work in 1909, Mr. Williams devoted his time exclusively to painting, exhibiting at the National Academy and at the Society of American Artists. A group of small figure paintings and landscapes, hung together in the American Watercolor Society in 1900, received such favorable attention that Mr. Williams "felt that in these works he had but found the key to his personal expression." The next ten years were devoted to developing this, and at the end of that period he had a special exhibition in the galleries of Mr. N. E. Montross. These were all small pictures, but in 1914 he completed his first large figure composition, "The Drama of Life - The Marginal Way," purchased by the Art Institute, Chicago. In 1915 he received a silver medal at the Panama Pacific Exposition. Other work is found in many private collections here and abroad.

In addition to his painting Mr. Williams has written many essays on art, such as "American Marine Painters," "American Painters of Children," "Robert Havell, the Engraver of Audubon's 'The Birds of America'," etc., etc.


(from the program of the Detroit Institute of Arts Exhibition of Paintings by George Alfred Williams, March 1-31, 1920)

Books & Publications

Book Title Date
The Pirates of Panama (1914) The Pirates of Panama 1914
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