Stuart Williams had, in the words of his older brother Frank, “a mystical connection with animals.” He dreamed of becoming a farmer, but having learned to draw at the age of six he became an artist, in his teens showing his work in venues throughout his hometown, Peterborough, New Hampshire. He traveled to Switzerland, the home of his beloved Toggenburg goats, and to Kenya, Tanzania, and the Serengeti plains. He read avidly about animals, domestic and wild, and watched all the documentary films on animals that he could find.
“Each of his drawings suggests,” the Boston Globe’s art critic Sebastian Smee has written, “an enviably deep, somehow magical identification with animals.” Williams belongs in the company of William Blake at his most playful, Le Douanier Rousseau, Grandma Moses, whose art he admired, and the nature films of Walt Disney. Not Bambi—Williams loathed cruelty to animals—but The Living Desert, that marvel of close observation.
For all the humor in his art, Williams felt deeply our estrangement from animals, often portraying them as wary and cunning, looking out from their world, sometimes hidden, to witness us, in the zoo of our own making.
Williams is that rare artist who worked under the constraints, physical and mental, of an incurable genetic disorder—Prader–Willi syndrome. He had the remarkable luck of being born to the right family in the right place, and he honored that with an art that transcended the impossible odds of his birth. Truly, the life and art of Stuart Williams are sui generis.