William Collins R.A.


William Collins R.A. was one of the best known artists of his time. He painted more than 200 major works and hundreds of minor ones. He was elected an associate member of the Royal Academy on 7 November 1814 and a full member in 1820 and, apart from two years in Italy, he exhibited there  every year from 1807 until the year before his death in 1847. His patrons included King George IV, the Prime Minister Sir Robert Peel, four Dukes, numerous other aristocrats, MPs, industrialists and members of the clergy. Despite his contemporary fame, he is now relatively unknown and his pictures are hard to find. Many of those that are in public collections are not on display and some of the finest are either lost or remain, perhaps unrecognised, in private hands.

These pages bring together some of his work together with biographical material. Much that is known about him comes from the two volume Memoirs of the Life of William Collins, Esq., R.A. by his son, the novelist Wilkie Collins (1824-1889) which was published in 1848. William's other son was the artist and writer Charles Allston Collins (1828-1873)

William's Pictures
This list presents images of some of William's works in chronological order. Much of his work is missing from the list and many of the images that are here are taken from engravings rather than original paintings. The main source of information about William's pictures is his son's Memoirs of the Life of William Collins, Esq., R.A. 1848. In an appendix (II pp341-352) Wilkie lists 218 major oil paintings, dated and with details of where they were exhibited, who bought them and at what price. However, Wilkie notes that the list excludes "his studies and sketches from Nature, some of his earlier and less important experiments in Art, and his water-colour drawings, being too numerous for regular enumeration." Wilkie says that 700 to 800 of this 'mass' was sold by Christie and Manson, implying there was much more.

Some of his best known work was reproduced in the 19th century in engravings in books or periodicals. Some engravings were produced for separate sale and he also did some engravings to illustrate books. A partial list is found in Memoirs II pp353-354.

Click image to enlarge Dates refer to the date the painting was exhibited or an estimate of when it was painted.
1812May-day was exhibited at the British Institution in 1812 and sold to Rev. Sir S.C.Jervoise. 
1812 The Sale of the Pet Lamb, painted by William Collins in 1812 and shown the next year at the Royal Academy Exhibition. Read Wilkie's description of it.
1814 Boys Fishing painted and etched by William Collins who signed and dated it 1814. This artist's proof preceded the mezzotint by Ward (below). It was published as an etching by his brother Francis Collins in April 1820.
1814 Boys Fishing painted and etched by William Collins who signed and dated it 1814. This version was engraved in mezzotint by William Ward ARA and published by William's brother Francis Collins in April 1820.
1815 The Reluctant Departure
1820 Capstern at Work, drawing up Fishing Boats was finished in February 1820 for Sir Thomas Heathcote and was exhibited at the Royal Academy that year. 
1832 An image and Wilkie's description of The Skittle-players by William Collins RA
1832 Rustic Civility
1841 Scene from the Caves of Ulysses, at Sorrento Wilkie's description of this painting and its recent history.
1844 Seaford-Sussex was based on sketches done in 1841 when he stayed in Seaford.


All material on these pages is Paul Lewis 1996-2003