David Williams-Ellis

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.

Biography

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.

Key Exhibitions

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

Robert Willett

The Hon Edward Fairfax

The Duchess of Abercorn

Ladies Tamara and Edwina Grosvenor

Lord Shuttleworth, The National Trust

Duncan MacLaren

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

Lord Ballyedmond

Simon Cadbury

Desmond Thompson, Queens University, Belfast

Camilla Baring

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