Obituary: Chester Williams - People - News - The Independent

Obituary: Chester Williams

Chester Russell Williams, artist: born Hollywood, California 1921; married Lucy Halford; died Moreton in Marsh, Gloucestershire 22 October 1994.

Chester Williams was a painter of remarkable versatility. He could produce watercolours of the English countryside which, in their delicate allusiveness, suggested the work of Wilson Steer; hot, angular pictures of Middle East desert and mountain; and totally revealing, yet always sympathetic portraits of people ranging from Rebecca West and Svetlana Beriosova to a host of children.

On occasion a likeness was too exact to please the sitter. When I mentioned the West portrait to Rebecca West herself, she snorted that it looked nothing like her. But in fact it is a wonderfully acute study, catching her abrasiveness and intellectual vigour, along with a certain melancholy. That Williams was such a good portraitist was, in large part, because he was such a wonderful listener. He was intensely and sympathetically interested in what people revealed of themselves, and for that reason they often revealed more than they intended.

Born in Hollywood and educated at Hollywood High School, where a number of his schoolfellows were the children of film stars, Williams arrived in England during the Second World War to work on camouflage. Later, a beneficiary of the GI Bill of Rights, he attended the Accademia delle Belle Arti in Venice. In 1954 he went on to the Courtauld Institute in London. By now he was married to Lucy Halford, a brilliant industrial designer and director for many years of Lucy Halford Associates, the Mayfair public relations company.

His subsequent artistic career was always a partnership between two people wholly unlike each other and yet totally compatible. In contrast to the dreamily impractical Chester, Lucy was a formidable organiser, who guided his career with the shrewdness and impeccable artistic judgement which marked every task which she undertook. They were utterly devoted to each other.

Together, they made a beautiful mill in Ellingham in Norfolk into a centre for modern art. They held exhibitions there, with people as eminent as John Piper and Leslie Waddington acting as their judges of prizes. Rarely a weekend seemed to pass in the summer when the many rooms of the mill were not full of guests. With their ability to draw people of all ages, nationalities and professions, no couple could have been more hospitable.

Subsequently they moved to a smaller house in the Cotswolds village of Long Compton where, despite, his failing health, Chester continued to paint and where both of them continued to entertain on the same generous scale.

For some five years Chester, usually accompanied by Lucy, lived off and on in Oman as, in effect, court painter to the Sultan. Some of his best work was produced during that period - which was, I should guess, the happiest of their lives. Many of the paintings then produced are now to be found in Saudi Arabian palaces.

Chester Williams often exhibited abroad - in Warsaw, Athens, New York, Los Angeles. His last one-man London exhibitions were at the Patrick Seale Gallery in 1983 and at Spink's in 1986. There were many admirers and purchasers of his work; but, an artist who combined rare gifts of observation with technical mastery, he deserved many more.

(Photograph omitted)

PROMOTED VIDEO
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs People

HR Manager - Edgware, London - £45,000

£40000 - £45000 per annum + Benefits: Ashdown Group: HR Manager - Edgware, Lon...

HR Manager - London - £40,000 + bonus

£32000 - £40000 per annum + bonus: Ashdown Group: HR Manager (Generalist) -Old...

Talent Manager / HR Manager - central London - £50,000

£45000 - £50000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Talent / Learning & Development Mana...

HR Manager (standalone) - London

Up to £40,000: Ashdown Group: Standalone HR Manager role for an SME business b...

Day In a Page

Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

A shot in the dark

Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
His life, the universe and everything

His life, the universe and everything

New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Save us from small screen superheroes

Save us from small screen superheroes

Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Reach for the skies

Reach for the skies

From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

12 best hotel spas in the UK

Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
How to make a Lego masterpiece

How to make a Lego masterpiece

Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam
'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

Exclusive extract from Janis Winehouse's poignant new memoir
Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

The Imitation Game, film review
England and Roy Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption in Basel

England and Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption

Welbeck double puts England on the road to Euro 2016
Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

Pictures removed from public view as courts decide ownership
‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

Donatella Versace at New York Fashion Week