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William Trost Richards   Click Images to Enlarge



William Trost Richards

(American, 1833-1905)

Richards was born in Philadelphia on November 14, 1833 and studied in that city 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. His work is represented in the permanent collections at 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 and many more museums. He died in Newport, RI on November 9, 1905.

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 out doors.

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 affects 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.


References: Fielding, Mantle, Dictionary of American Painters (1927); Who Was Who in American Art; "Who's Who in American Art," American Art Annual; Gerdts, Wm., Art Across America (1993)