(b Worcester, 12 Mar. 1831; d Burrows Cross House, nr. Shere, Surrey, 22 Mar. 1923). English landscape painter, chiefly remembered for one work. He was originally called Benjamin Leader Williams (he was the brother of the engineer Sir Edward Leader Williams), but he transposed his names because there were several other contemporary landscape painters called Williams from whom he wanted to distinguish himself. His career was only modestly successful until he caught the public imagination with February Fill Dyke (City AG, Birmingham), exhibited at the Royal Academy in 1881 (it represents a November—not a February—evening after rain; the title comes from an old country rhyme). It was acclaimed for its vividness of atmosphere, and ‘By the end of the century…had achieved the kind of popular immortality that in British landscape art had previously only been granted to Constable’ (catalogue of the exhibition ‘Great Victorian Paintings’, RA, London, 1978). Leader continued exhibiting with success until the end of his long life, but many 20th-century critics were dismissive about his work (in Landscape into Art (1949), Kenneth Clark held up February Fill Dyke as an example of ‘false naturalism’). However, with the general growth of interest in Victorian art, Leader's reputation has revived.
From The Oxford Dictionary of Art in Oxford Reference.