Williams, Alexander (1846–1930), artist, naturalist and singer, was born 21 April 1846 in the Diamond, Monaghan town, eldest of three sons of William Williams, hatter, of Drogheda, Co. Louth, and was educated at Drogheda Grammar School. His father moved in May 1860 to 19 Bayview Avenue, North Strand, Dublin. Williams was first apprenticed to his father until the hat business failed following a disastrous fire. With his brother Edward he founded the Natural History Studio of Williams & Sons, Dame Street, Dublin, before leaving to take up music as a profession.
He became a member of the Dublin Glee and Madrigal Union (1875) and sang alto in the choirs of Christ Church cathedral, St Patrick's cathedral, the Chapel Royal, and Trinity College Dublin (TCD) chapel. He took drawing lessons at the Royal Dublin Society (RDS) but was a self-taught painter in oils and watercolours; he combined music and art for many years before retiring from singing. He was a founder member of the Dublin Sketching Club. He became known chiefly as a landscape and maritime painter and worked throughout Ireland with occasional trips to Britain. He was most closely associated with Achill Island where he built a house, Bleanaskill Lodge, which he called his ‘island home', and established a garden there which in a later period was opened to the public for a time. He exhibited first in the Royal Hibernian Academy (RHA) in 1870 and continued till his death sixty years later, the longest consecutive period of any artist. He became an associate member of RHA (ARHA) in 1883 and a full member in 1891. He exhibited regularly in London, Manchester, and Bristol, and also had shows in overseas venues including Canada and Bermuda. In 1911 he was asked by Blackie & Son, publishers, to produce paintings for a set of four books under the title Beautiful Ireland, one for each province. Stephen Gwynn (qv) wrote the text and subsequently the books were reissued in one volume by Gresham Publishers. Williams died in Dublin on 15 November 1930. He married (4 April 1881) in St Peter's, Aungier Street, Kitty, daughter of George Gray, vicar choral of Westminster Abbey, Armagh cathedral and St Patrick's cathedral, Dublin; they had one daughter and one son, George (1882–1904).
His art is to be found in a number of public institutions including the Hugh Lane Gallery, the National Gallery of Ireland, Crawford Art Gallery, Cork, Monaghan County Museum and Ireland’s Great Hunger Exhibition, Connecticut, USA. He contributed occasional articles to the Irish Naturalist magazine, an ornithological diary (1909–1911) is held by the Ulster Museum, Belfast, and letters relating to Williams & Son are in the Natural History Museum, Dublin.
He left memorabilia, including unpublished memoirs and diaries; exhibition catalogues and letters, amounting to some thirty-six volumes, along with numerous sketchbooks.