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William Trost Richards
Hudson River School Painter
American, (11/14/1833–11/08/1905)
This biography was submitted by 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.

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.

Matthew Baigell, "Dictionary of American Art"
William Trost Richards, an artist associated with both the Hudson River School and the American Pre-Raphaelite movement. Born in Philadelphia in 1833, William Trost 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 are 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).

Metropolitan Museum of Art
Born in Philadelphia on November 14, 1833, William Trost Richards was a pupil of Paul Weber. In 1853, he went abroad to study for three years in Florence, Rome, Paris and Dsseldorf. 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 in 1885 and a Bronze Medal at the Paris Exposition in 1889. Richards was a member of the American Water Color 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." 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, Smithsonian Institution, Cooper-Hewitt Museum, Cleveland Museum of Art, Metropolitan Museum of Art, Vassar College Art Gallery, Corcoran Gallery of Art, and the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts. Richards died in Newport, Rhode Island in 1905. The artist 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.

Newman Galleries

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