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 William Trost Richards  (1833 - 1905)

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Lived/Active: Pennsylvania/Rhode Island      Known for: marine-seascape, landscape and botanic painting

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Ad Code: 1
William Trost Richards
from Auction House Records.
Mackerel Cove, Jamestown, Rhode Island
Artwork images are copyright of the artist or assignee
This biography from the Archives of AskART:
His works are located at:
Newport Art Museum:
ACCESS RESTRICTED. APPOINTMENT REQUIRED (some are hanging)
1. Oil painting, "Off the South Shore" (1896) (acc.# 922.002)
2. Oil on board, "New Jersey Beach" (1870) (acc.# 954.001.1)
3. Oil on board, "Sea Waves in a Storm" (1870) (acc.# 954.001.2)
4. Watercolor, "Sunset Light" (1894) (acc.# 954.001.3)
5. Pencil drawing, "Trees and a Woodland House" (1860) (acc.# 954.001.4)
6. Pencil drawing, "Trees" (1860) (acc.# 954.001.5)
7. Pencil drawing, "Tree Study" (1860) (acc.# 954.001.6)
8. Gouache/watercolor, "Haystack, Late Afternoon" (ca. 1860) (acc.# 9976.001.1)
9. Oil on board, "Rocky Coast, Newport" (acc.# 976.001.2
10. Oil on board, "The Harbor Bar" (ca. 1870) (acc.# 980.002.1)
11. Oil on board, "Beach Study in Pink and Blue" (ca. 1870) (acc.# 980.002.2)
12. Oil on panel, "The Shoal Water" (acc.# 991.014.75)
13. Oil on paper, "Bethlehem, Leigh Valley" (acc.# 991.014.76)
14. Watercolor, "Canaan, Connecticut" (acc.#  991.014.77)
15. Watercolor, "Almy's Pond, Newport" (acc.# 991.014.78)
16. Watercolor, "Easton's Pond, Newport" (acc.# 991.014.79)
17. Watercolor, "Paradise Rocks and Valley" (acc.# 991.014.80)
18. Watercolor, "Pond, Paradise Rocks" (acc.# 991.014.81)
19. Oil on canvas, "Guernsey Cliffs, Channel Islands" (1899) (acc.# 2005.001.001)

Newport Historical Society:
ACCESS RESTRICTED. APPOINTMENT REQUIRED
1. Watercolor, "Easton's Beach (1874) (acc.# 78.2.2)
2. Watercolor, "Dale Cottage" (acc.# 78.2.1)
3. Watercolor [untitled]--seascape (1894) (acc.# 42.4)

PSNC:
Building location: Chepstow (1st fl.):
1. Watercolor, [untitled]--Newport coastal scene (1883) (acc.# PSNC8532)
2. Oil on panel landscape, "Second Strait, Lake Placid" (1893) (acc.# PSNC.8513)
3. Oil on wood panel [untitled]--landscape of Whiteface Mountain, Lake Placid (1905)
4. Watercolor, "Sachuest Beach" (1889) (acc.# PSNC.8535)

RISD:
ACCESS RESTRICTED. APPOINTMENT REQUIRED
1. Oil painting on panel, "Near Tenby, Wales" (1905) (acc.# 54.110)
2. Oil painting on panel, "Castle at Tenby, Wales" (1905) (acc.# 54.111)
3. Oil painting on panel, "Seascape" (mid 19th-early 20th c.) (acc.# 54.112)
4. Oil painting on paper board, "Mohegan Islands" (ca. 1875-85) (acc.# 54.113)
5. Oil painting, "Guernsey, Channel Islands" (ca. 1890-95) (acc.# 54.114)
6. Pencil drawing [untitled]--seascape (mid 19th-early 20th c.) (acc.# 54.115)
7. Pencil drawing [untitled]--seascape (mid 19th-early 20th c.) (acc.# 54.116)
8. Pencil drawing [untitled]--seascape (mid 19th-early 20th c.) (acc.# 54.117)
9. Oil painting on paper board, "At Tenby, Wales" (ca. 1905) (acc.# 54.118)
10. Pencil drawing [untitled]--seascape (late 19th-early 20th c.) (acc.# 54.119)
11. Pencil drawing [untitled]--seascape (late 19th-early 20th c.) (acc.# 54.120)
12. Pencil drawing [untitled]--seascape (mid 19th-early 20th c.) (acc.# 54.122)
13. Watercolor/pencil, "Field Study" (1889) (acc.# 1992.001.115)
14. Watercolor/pencil, "Coast of Cornwall" (ca. 1879) (acc.# 1992.001.116)
15. Oil painting on canvas, "Purgatory-Near Newport" (1890's) (acc.# 2004.107)
16. Engraving, "The Sands of Dee" (acc.# INV2006.211)

Source:
Unveiled: a directory and guide to 19th century born artists active in Rhode Island, and where to find their work in publicly accessible Rhode Island collections
by Elinor L. Nacheman


This biography from the Archives of AskART:
A native of Philadelphia, William Trost Richards had a fifty-year career as a noted landscape and marine painter whose mature work combined extremely detailed aspects of nature with atmospheric qualities.  He was especially innovative for his time because he borrowed informal composition techniques from the Pre-Raphaelites of England, painting lights and colors outdoors as he actually observed them.

His formal education ended at age thirteen when he quit school to support his family by working as a commercial draughtsman designing ornamental metal fixtures.  He studied painting privately with William Stanley Haseltine and Paul Weber from whom he learned a meticulous graphic technique.  He was supported by local persons in Philadelphia who financed a year of study in Europe from 1855 to 1856, and in 1867, he went abroad for a second time.  He did numerous pencil drawings and paintings of Italy and Switzerland and much painting along English coasts.

By the 1850s, he had decided that landscape was his favorite subject matter and was especially inspired by American poetry but was much more inspired by American landscape painting, especially that of John Kensett and Frederic Edwin Church.  He did a series of brilliant Adirondack landscapes and also coastal landscapes and marine subjects from New Jersey to Maine.  The latter part of his career, he was firmly established as a coastal and marine painter, ever fascinated by the tumultuous phenomenon of water hitting rocks and beach.

His works on paper--watercolor and pencil drawings--were some of his earliest and most important contributions, and hundreds of them survive in spite of an 1854 studio fire. Having been working in oil for some time, he began working in watercolor in the late 1860s, which was linked to his growing interest in the seashore.

Watercolor was best for plein air sketching and was excellent for expressing the atmospheric effects he sought to achieve. Two patrons of his watercolor painting were Elias L. Magoon and George Whitney, and their support allowed him to work without the worry of money.


Source:
Matthew Baigell, Dictionary of American Art

Biography from Pierce Galleries, Inc.:
William Trost Richards (American, 1833-1905):

Richards was born in Philadelphia on November 14, 1833 and he died in Newport, RI on November 9, 1905. He studied in Philadelphia with Paul Weber in 1850 and possibly at the PAFA ca. 1852 before studying in Florence, Rome and Paris from 1853-1856.

He was a member of the PAFA (1853); Association of Advanced Truth in Art (1868); Royal Academy, London; National Academy (1871, honorary) and the American Watercolor Society.

Work: Brooklyn Museum of Art; Cooper-Hewitt Museum, NYC; Bowdoin College, Brunswick, ME; Metropolitan Museum of Art; Corcoran Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C.; Brooklyn Museum, NY; Newark Museum of Art, NJ; Art Institute of Chicago; Terra Museum of American Art.


William Trost Richards worked as an illustrator and as a designer of ornamental light fixtures for a Philadelphia firm that produced gas lamps, while studying privately the techniques of painting with German taught landscape-portrait painter Paul Weber (1823-1916). In 1852, he exhibited his first landscapes at the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Art and in 1853 some of his romantic drawings appeared in the portfolio "The Landscape Feeling of American Poets."

By 1855 Richards and marine-landscape painter William Stanley Hasseltine (1835-1900) sailed for Dusseldorf where Richards studied with Leutze and Albert Bierstadt, the latter of whom inspired Richards. After painting landscapes in oil in France and Italy, Richards married and returned to Germantown. Enthused by the works of Frederick Edwin Church and John Kensett by 1856, it was Church’s use of light and atmosphere that Richards began to imitate and two years later he was painting outdoors.

In 1866, Richards traveled to England and his focus turned from landscapes to marine painting. A year later a storm at sea caught the painter’s attention and he began to study the structure of waves and how weather effects the sea and shore.

In the late 1860s two notable art collectors gravitated to Richards’s work: the Reverend Elias Lyman Magoon, who in 1864 sold his collection to Matthew Vassar for the newly constructed Vassar College Art Gallery and George Whitney, who gave Richards financial security.

At the end of the Hudson River School era, Richards bought the first of many properties in and around Newport, Rhode Island (1874). Richards loosened his palette years later in the British Isles and the Channel Islands, where oftentimes he lightened his anachronistic palette to an almost green-gold overall tonality. Adorning the charm of solitude and the breadth of the sea, Richards peacefully painted on the island of Conanicut at Mackerel Cove until 1899.

Few artists are able to paint the sea and beach as well as Richards. His wet sandy beaches are often littered with portions of shipwrecks or seaweed to show that a tide has come and gone or that a storm’s fury has past and left its mark. The artist was adept at painting light coming through steep, lifting waves, the foam created when they slap to the ground and the reflective qualities surrounding them. Although Richards was a noted landscape and still life painter, he is best remembered for his incandescent shorelines.

Biography from Abby M Taylor Fine Art:
William Trost Richards is best known for his seascapes executed along the New England coast, the coast of England and Donegal Bay.  The artist's infatuation with nature and its power is evoked graphically in his paintings.

Richards studied under William Haseltine and Paul Weber and later traveled to Europe where he encountered such artists as Hiram Powers, Emanuel Leutz, Frederick Church, John Kensett and Albert Bierstadt. 

He was greatly assisted by the sponsorship and financial assistance of his great friend, Asa Whitney.  It was Whitney who made it possible for Richards to spend extended periods of time, early in his career, in England during the 1860’s.  It was Whitney who underwrote through loans and commissions Richards' second sojourn abroad with his family in 1866-7l.

Armed with commissions from the New York dealer Knoedler, Richards nevertheless acknowledged Whitney’s support as his mainstay: “This past year of anxious study has been made easier to me by the knowledge of your kindness, a kindness which has really been the ‘backbone’ of my plans.”

In the 1870’s until the end of his life, Richards spent the summers at his home on Conanicut Island (Jamestown) near Newport, Rhode Island.  He lived there in relative isolation, close to the sea he loved, until late in his life when the area began to be developed, much to his distress.

Richards also continued to explore the Pennsylvania landscape during the 1880's. The purchase of a farm in Chester County stimulated a group of plein air oil studies.  These small works provided the foundation for a series of monumental, elegiac landscapes executed in the later 1880's that celebrated the wooded hills, winding streams and harvest fields of the Brandywine region.

Landscape painters are wanderers by nature.  Richards shared the peripatetic habits of his generation as well as the compulsion to record his impressions.  His works document a lifetime of tireless travel in search of subjects.  If their size is, on the whole, intimate, they seem fearless in scale, from the minute convolutions of a morning glory drawn the size of life, to a ten inch panorama sweeping miles of rugged coastline.

Driven by his own curiosity and energy, Richards was also mindful, in the later years of his career, of the need to widen steadily his subject repertoire for a restless market constantly demanding novelty of subject matter.  The drawings, watercolors, sketchbooks, and oils produced on his tours offer ready reference in the studio for decades, providing inspiration and authority of detail for his meticulously finished works.  Equally significant, they offer moving evidence of a lifetime's meditation on the meaning of landscape.

Memberships:
Forensic and Literary Circle of Philadelphia
National Academy of Design

Public Collections:
Bowdoin College, Brunswick, Maine
Brooklyn Museum
Cooper-Hewitt Museum of Decorative Arts and Design, NYC
Corcoran Gallery, Washington, DC
Metropolitan Museum of Art, NYC
Newark Museum, New Jersey
University of Washington, Seattle

Biography from Schwarz Gallery:
William Trost Richards was born in Philadelphia and began to draw at a young age. After the death of his father in 1847, he withdrew from Central High School to support his family and worked as a designer of ornamental metal fixtures.

Richards and William Stanley Haseltine (1835–1900) studied painting with German landscape painter Paul Weber (1823–1916) in 1850, and took classes at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, where he first exhibited in 1852 and was elected an academician the following year.  During the early 1850s he went on sketching trips to the Hudson River Valley in New York and met such noted landscape painters as Frederic Edwin Church (1826–1900), Jasper F. Cropsey (1823–1900), and John F. Kensett (1816–1872).

In 1855 he went to Europe and toured the continent with Haseltine and the artist Alexander Lawrie (1828–1917).  Richards returned to Philadelphia the following year, married, and settled in Germantown. 

Early in his career Richards painted forest scenes in the extremely detailed style advocated by John Ruskin and the Pre-Raphaelites, and he joined the Society of Truth in Art in 1863.  Richards was elected an honorary member of the National Academy of Design in 1862 and a full academician in 1871.  Following a second visit to Europe in 1866, Richards began to concentrate on marine subjects, and he achieved fame for his depictions of coastal scenes.

Linda S. Ferber has noted that before 1874, when Richards made Newport, Rhode Island, his “permanent summer residence, summer months were largely spent traveling to various spots on the coast, from New Jersey to Maine and sketching the different ‘combinations of Rock and beach and sea.’”

He became adept at watercolor and joined the American Watercolor Society in 1874. He lived in Great Britain from 1878 to 1880 and had a studio in London.  Subsequently Richards returned to Philadelphia and spent some summers in Atlantic City and Cape May.


Source:

1. This aspect of Richards’s career is discussed in Linda S. Ferber and William H. Gerdts, The New Path: Ruskin and the American Pre-Raphaelites [exh. cat.] (New York: The Brooklyn Museum, 1985), pp. 214–28.

2. Linda S. Ferber, William Trost Richards: American Landscape and Marine Painter, 1833–1905 [exh. cat.] (New York: The Brooklyn Museum, 1973), p. 31.

Biography from Newman Galleries:
Born in Philadelphia on November 14, 1833, William Trost Richards, one of the more important American artists of the 19th Century, was a pupil of Paul Weber.  Travels took him abroad to England, France, Germany, Ireland, Italy, Norway, Scotland, Switzerland, and Wales.

He began to paint marine subjects in 1867, and from 1874 spent his summers in Newport, Rhode Island, where he settled permanently in 1890.

The artist received a medal at the Centennial Exposition in Philadelphia in 1876; the Temple Medal from the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts 1885, and a bronze medal at the Paris Exposition in 1889.

Richards was a member of the American Watercolor Society and an honorary member of the National Academy of Design, where he exhibited from 1861 to 1899.

In 1883, the Corcoran Art Gallery in Washington, D.C. commissioned him to paint “On the Coast of New Jersey”.

Richards was honored with a retrospective exhibition at the Brooklyn Museum and the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts in 1973. He has been accorded a central position in the 19th century Luminist Tradition of American Art.

His work is represented in the collections of the Boston Museum of Fine Arts, the Brooklyn Museum, the Newark Museum, Fogg Art Museum of Harvard University, St. Louis Art Museum, the Adirondack Museum, the Smithsonian Institution, Cooper-Hewitt Museum, Cleveland Museum of Art, Metropolitan Museum of Art, Vassar College Art Museum, Corcoran Gallery of Art, and the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts.

Richards died in 1905 in Newport, Rhode Island.

Biography from Edgartown Art Gallery (outo of business):
A native of Philadelphia born in 1833, William Trost Richards had a fifty-year career as a noted landscape and marine painter whose mature work combined extremely detailed aspects of nature with atmospheric qualities.  He was especially innovative for his time because he borrowed informal composition techniques from the Pre-Raphaelites of England; painting lights and colors outdoors as he actually observed them.  His formal education ended at age thirteen when he quit school to support his family by working as a commercial draughtsman designing ornamental metal fixtures. 

He studied painting privately with William Stanley Haseltine and Paul Weber from whom he learned a meticulous graphic technique.  He was supported by local persons in Philadelphia who financed a year of study in Europe from 1855 to 1856, and in 1867, he went abroad for a second time.  He did numerous pencil drawings and paintings of Italy and Switzerland and much painting along English coasts.  By the 1850s, he had decided that landscape was his favorite subject matter and was especially inspired by American poetry but was much more inspired by American landscape painting, especially that of John Kensett and Frederic Edwin Church.  He did a series of brilliant Adirondack landscapes and also coastal landscapes and marine subjects from New Jersey to Maine.  The latter part of his career, he was firmly established as a coastal and marine painter, ever fascinated by the tumultuous phenomenon of water hitting rocks and beach.

His works on paper--watercolor and pencil drawings--were some of his earliest and most important contributions, and hundreds of them survive in spite of a 1854 studio fire.  Having been working in oil for some time, he began working in watercolor in the late 1860s, which was linked to his growing interest in the seashore.  Watercolor was best for plein air sketching and was excellent for expressing the atmospheric effects he sought to achieve.  Two patrons of his watercolor painting were Elias L. Magoon and George Whitney, and their support allowed him to work without the worry about money.

Richards was a member of the PAFA (1853); Association of Advanced Truth in Art (1868); Royal Academy, London; National Academy (1871, honorary) and the American Watercolor Society. The artist died in Newport, Rhode Island in 1905.

Biography from Metropolitan Museum NY:
William Trost Richards was an artist associated with both the Hudson River School and the American Pre-Raphaelite movement.  Born in Philadelphia in 1833, Richards studied in Florence, Rome, and Paris before settling in Germantown, Pennsylvania.  He was recognized initially for his landscapes - especially of the White Mountains of northern New Hampshire and southwestern Maine - but turned his attention to the sea beginning in about 1867.

A leading artist of the American Watercolor Society, Richards was esteemed for helping lift the medium into higher prominence.  The exhibition at the Metropolitan features works representing the entire range of subjects for which Richards was known.  Noteworthy among his early works is Palms, a delicate drawing from 1855, which was acquired recently by the Museum.

Landscapes from the E. L. Magoon gift of 1880 includes the watercolors Moonlight on Mount Lafayette, New Hampshire (1873) and Lake Squam from Red Hill (1874).  Among Richards's luminous and highly realistic paintings of the sea is the watercolor A Rocky Coast (1877).



** If you discover credit omissions or have additional information to add, please let us know at registrar@AskART.com.


William Richards is also mentioned in these AskART essays:
Hudson River School Painters
San Francisco Panama-Pacific Exhibition 1915
Paris Pre 1900



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