Kenilworth From the West Williams, James Leon  (American, 1852-1932)

American born Dr. James Leon Williams moved to London in 1887. He spent summers in Stratford-on-Avon making photographs. In 1890, his first project matched these photographs as photogravures with the poem Elegy Written in a Country Churchyard written by Thomas Gray (1716-1771). Boston publisher Joseph Knight brought it out in a small edition. Two years later, Williams followed this with a massive folio entitled The Home and Haunts of Shakespeare published by Charles Scribner’s Sons in New York. The original edition contained reproductions of 15 watercolors by 15 different American artists which were completely overshadowed by Williams’ 45 pictorialist photogravures. The New York Times published a review before the book was even finished, crediting Williams with reviving America’s interest in Shakespeare.

Williams was a dentist and a scholar, the inventor of modern dentures, and a photographer of considerable talent. He was one of the first American photographers to grasp the artistic potential of the photogravure process. Williams’ work follows the precepts of the "Naturalistic" school of photography founded by Peter Henry Emerson. Emerson advised photographers to keep the central subject of the composition sharp, allowing the focus to drop off in the background. The resulting atmospheric effect was thought to be more "natural," because Emerson believed the human eye could concentrate its focus on only a single plane. Williams produced two fine photogravure picture books, “The Home and haunts of Shakespeare” (1892), and “The land of Sleepy Hollow and the home of Washington Irving” (1887).

The Homes and Haunts of Shakespeare was first published in 1892. It was reissued in 1894, the ‘Stratford Edition’, with only 30 photogravures rather than the original 45.


James Leon Williams: Dentist, Photographer, Philosopher cited 10/22/22