David Williams-Ellis (born 1959) is a British sculptor whose principal subject matter is the human figure. He is internationally celebrated as one of the world’s leading figurative sculptors and his commissions have brought him international acclaim. Williams-Ellis works primarily in clay before casting in bronze, silver or glass.
David Williams-Ellis was born in Lisburn, Northern Ireland. His parents were talented amateur artists and his sister Bronwyn Williams-Ellis is a globally renowned ceramicist. His great uncle was Clough Williams-Ellis, the architect who created the Italianate village of Portmeirion in North Wales. Clough’s daughter, Susan Williams-Ellis was a pottery designer, best known for co-founding Portmeirion Pottery.
He was educated at Stowe School, Buckinghamshire and attributes his early career start to a helpful teacher, William Dady, who was a painter by practice but a sculpture by inclination. He made his first sale, his A Level plaster figure, before he left.
On leaving school, Williams-Ellis eschewed the traditional route of going to art school on the basis that they were all going in a conceptual direction and no one was teaching the craft and traditional skills he wanted to develop. Instead, for his eighteenth birthday he asked his parents for a ticket to Italy where he sought out a classical training in Florence under the legendary octogenarian drawing teacher, Nerina Simi. He was initially turned away by Simi but he was persistent and she eventually let him in. Simi taught him to observe the features of a face, the way a person’s clothes hung and the details within buildings.
From there he went on to be an apprentice wood carver. Then, in 1978, having been awarded the Elizabeth T. Greenshield Foundation Award he was able to work and study with the marble craftsmen of Carrara in Pietrasanta. He was heavily influenced by the early and high Renaissance and Italian art in general as well as the architecture and visual excitement of Italy.
It was a chance encounter with a girl sitting on a pillar that planted the seed of inspiration that would later flower into his signature style. Williams-Ellis soon realised that the restrictions of carving were not for him and in 1981 he returned to London to attend the Sir John Cass School of Art.
In 1993 Williams-Ellis was elected member of Royal Cambrian Academy of Art.
Williams-Ellis’ most recent and eagerly anticipated exhibition, entitled Elemental, was held at the Portland Gallery in December 2014. Listed by Country Life in an article entitled ‘The Best Art Exhibitions to Visit this December’ Williams-Ellis drew his inspiration for the exhibition from the landscape of the Eden Valley and Cumbria, the human figure within the landscape as well as the interaction between the landscape, the figures and the weather. The exhibition also saw Williams-Ellis mixing old techniques with new. He was one of the first sculptors to experiment with the method of patination, using chemicals and pigments to create vivid hues.
Today Williams-Ellis lives and works in Oxfordshire.
Notable Public Commissions
The Normandy Memorial Trust
David has been commissioned by the Normandy Memorial Trust, alongside the architect Liam O’Connor, to create the D-Day sculpture which will occupy a prominent position on the forecourt of the memorial against the backdrop of ‘Gold Beach’ to commemorate the 22,500 British soldiers who died during the landings and thereafter. The 18 foot sculpture will be unveiled in 2019 to coincide with the 75th anniversary of the landings. Read more.
Aberdeen Fishing Memorial
David was selected by Aberdeen City Council to create a sculpture to commemorate and celebrate all the men and women who have served in the city’s fishing Industry. It consists of two life-size sculptures, a fisherwoman and a fisherman, that stand outside the Aberdeen Maritime Museum, unveiled in June 2018.
Sir Kyffin Williams
Commissioned by Mary Yapp of the Albany Gallery, Kyffin’s agent in Wales and designed for Oriel Ynys Mon, where the Kyffin Williams Collection is housed. To be unveiled to mark the centenary of Kyffin’s birth in 2018.
Saving Eden’s Salmon
In 2016 Williams-Ellis was commissioned by the Eden Rivers Trust to sculpt two over life-size bronzes of a cock and hen salmon to be sold by the trust in order to raise money to support their campaign and fundraising initiatives to save the wild salmon and stop their decline in both the River Eden and other rivers across Britain.
Lawrence of Arabia
In 2013 Williams-Ellis was commissioned to sculpt an over life size bronze of T.E. Lawrence to commemorate the 125th anniversary of his birth to be displayed at Snowdon Lodge, Lawrence’s birthplace.
Ray Gravell “Grav”
Commissioned in 2008 the 10-ton statue now stands outside the south stand of the Prac Y Scarlets stadium.
1981 Le Robinson Gallery, Paris
1985 Fiona Whitney, Los Angeles
Young Artists Exhibition, Thos Agnew and Sons, London
1986 Fiona Whitney Group Show, Los Angeles
1987 Otter Gallery, Belfast
Gail Feingarten, Los Angeles
National Trust Foundation for Art, Thos Agnew and Sons
1988 Cadogan Contemporary, London
1989 Tom Caldwell Gallery, Belfast
1990 Contemporary Sculpture Centre, Tokyo, Japan
1991 Cadogan Contemporary, London
1993 Plas Glyn-y-Weddw, Wales
‘The Deities’, Tatsumi Collection, St James’, London
Mitsukoshi Department Store, Osaka, Japan
1995 Sladmore Gallery, London
1996 La Cymaise, Paris
Sladmore Gallery, London – Penelope and Odysseus
1997 Marcos Bledel Gallery, Santiago
Marcos Bledel Gallery, Buenos Aires
Parvis Sigaroudinia, Belfast
1999 La Verand’ Anne, Gstaad
The Bank of Ireland, Dublin
Cadogan Contemporary, London
2003 Robert Bowman Gallery, London – Uncovered
2005 XVA Gallery, Dubai, U.A.E
2006 Albany Gallery, Cardiff, Wales
Villa D’Este, Como, Italy
2007 The Rarity Gallery, Mykonos, Greece
Oriel Plas, Glyn-y-Weddw, Wales
2008 The Secret Garden Exhibition, Dublin
2012 The Masterpiece Exhibition, London
The Albany Gallery, Cardiff, Wales
2014 Portland Gallery
Selected Commissions in bronze
Henry Harper-Crewe and Lord Vernon, The National Trust
Trevor Clay, The Royal College of Nurses
The Hon Edward Fairfax
The Duchess of Abercorn
Ladies Tamara and Edwina Grosvenor
Lord Shuttleworth, The National Trust
Otis, Isaac, Tara and Merlin Ferry
Lord Aberconway, Bodnant House.
Lord Glamis, Glamis Castle
The Lord St. Oswald, Nostell Priorty, The National Trust.
Sir David Butter
Desmond Thompson, Queens University, Belfast
Sir Richard Brooke
Nicholas Durlacher, L.I.F.F.E.
Professor Barry O’Donnell, The Royal College of Surgeons, Dublin
Lord Soulsby, The Royal College of Vetinarary Surgeons, Belfast
Gordon Richards, Carlisle Racecourse
Sir Kyffin Williams, The Royal Cambrian Academy
Sir Denis Rooke, Loughborough University
John Monckton, The Knights of Malta
John Chichester Constable, Burton Constable Hall
Anthony Berry, Berry Brothers Wine Merchants
Henry Hoare for C. Hoare & Co., London