According to Jennie Shelley, his great great grandniece who lives in New Zealand, Webb was born William James Webb on 13 July 1830 at Redruth, Cornwall, and baptized on the 23rd of that month at St Austell, Cornwall. One of eight children, he was the son of Rev Samuel Webb (Wesleyan minister) and Sarah. Webb married Besse[?] sometime before 1871, and they had 2 children, Wilfred and Ethel. He was living on the Isle of Wight in 1856, and in the 1901 census William (aged 70) and his wife Besse (aged 52) were living at 4 Marlborough Rd, Ealing, Middlesex, his occupation described as Artist.
His brother Samuel WEBB was a pottery manufacturer in Stoke on Trent (Webb and Walters, also Webb and Co), and William's mother came from generations of pottery manufacturers. Webb himself illustrated many Bible stories for children and poetry books. William's son Wilfred Mark WEBB OBE wrote books on nature study, which his father illustrated. Wilfred wrote Heritage of Dress, and two volumes of Eton Nature Study (text books for Eton College). William's illustrations of insects in the text books are in very great detail, and some of his pictures can be found on the internet: his picture The Collared Thief can be found on many poster sites. Art.com lists many of his paintings that have come up for auction. "He must have done over 30 painting in his lifetime. Somewhere in NZ there is an original painting done by William J Webbe of two of my relatives. The painting has been damaged in a fire, but myself and many of my relatives have copies of it."
Painter of rustic genre, religious, animals and allegorical subjects
works and access
Works include: A Hedge Bank in May (1855); Cattle and a Farm (sketch, 1856); Strawberries (1860); Lambs (1860); Early Lambs(1861); A Rabbit (1862); Street in Jerusalem (1863); Ploughing on Mount Zion (1864); Twilight; The Collared Thief; The Lost Sheep (1864); The White Owl (1856); Perch on a River Bank
Access to Work: Manchester City Art Galleries; Fine Art Society; Bridgeman Art Library (5); Christopher Wood Gallery site (1); The British Institution
Book illustrations: The 23rd Psalm (Raphael Tuck & Sons); The Influence Of Beauty by Keats (Raphael Tuck & Sons); Feld Blumen (German poems, Raphael Tuck & Sons); Bluen Botschaft (German poems, Raphael Tuck & Sons); Homes Of England by Mrs Felicia Hemans; The Sower And The Seed by Helen Marion Burnside; The Holiday Train by Frederick Longbridge; A Journey From Cornhill to Cairo by William Makepeace Thackeray; The Childrens Friend (1893); Eton Nature-Study And Observational Lessons (2 volumes) by M D Hill and Wilfred Mark Webb; Heritage Of Dress by Wilfred Mark Webb; Illustrated Natural History by W G Ridewood; The Friendly Visitor: Bible stories for children; The Beautiful Story; Charming Bible Stories; Young Folks' Story Of The Bible; Old Testament Stories by Robert Tuck
RA 1853-78; British Institution; Royal Society of British Artists
misc further info
Bill Millburn has kindly updated information on this artist, having found that he remained alive until after the 1911 Census. His address at that time was Heimath, 26 Clifton Road, Wallington, Surrey, and his age given as 80 years.
A recent correspondent (2015) comments: 'I recently purchased a scrapbook at auction. Among the scraps was a
poem with rather fine coloured illustrations, entitled ‘Dash’s Holiday’ (Dash being a dog). I presume it was originally published in a magazine. All of the illustrations were by the same hand, and some were signed
WJW, which I presume is William James Webb(e). I cannot find any information linking him with this, but it is a good bet that he produced the illustrations. The scrapbook was dated 1871.
Bridgeman Art Library
Fine Art Society
Hardie (2009) Artists in Newlyn & West Cornwall p351
Sotheby's Sale catalogue (No 141, 29 November 1977)
Christopher Wood Gallery on-line
The Victorian Web http://www.victorianweb.org/painting/webbe/