William Trost Richards (1833-1905)
One of the most important 19th century American landscape and marine painters, William Trost Richards was born in Philadelphia in 1833. Naturally talented as a young man, he worked for a firm designing gas light fixtures. Later Richards took lessons in Philadelphia with German artist Paul Weber before traveling to Europe for further study, particularly at Dusseldorf, where he refined his precise drawing skills. In Europe, he was also strongly influenced by the ideals of the English Pre-Raphaelite painters, who espoused the meticulous and detailed rendering of the minutiae of nature in art.
In 1856, the artist married Anna Matlock and settled in Germantown, Pennsylvania. The couple had seven children, four of which survived.
Early in his career, in the tradition of the Hudson River School, Richards painted and sketched the unspoiled landscape in rural Pennsylvania, the Catskill and Adirondack Mountain ranges, and along the New Jersey Shore.
In the summer of 1874 Richards visited Newport, Rhode Island, and became enthralled with the area’s sublime coastline. He purchased his first of several Newport area homes in 1875 and continued to paint there for the rest of his life, dividing time between Newport and Chester County, Pennsylvania, where he purchased a farm near the Brandywine in 1884. Richards also enjoyed painting excursions to Europe, especially Britain and Ireland, where he produced an important body of work.
Richards was one of the few 19th century American landscape artists who was equally skilled as a watercolorist and a painter in oils. He also cherished his drawings, which are among the finest of his generation.
Richards died in Newport in 1905. Today, the artist is best remembered for the luminist seascapes, imbued with light and atmosphere, that he created along the Rhode Island, New Jersey and British coasts; though his landscapes are also very highly respected.
The subject of much scholarly and market attention in the recent past, Richards has been the focus of exhibitions in the last several years at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York; the Brandywine River Museum, Chadds Ford, Pennsylvania; and the Adirondack Museum, Blue Mountain Lake, New York.
His work is found in the permanent collections of numerous museums, including the Metropolitan Museum of Art; the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston; the National Gallery of Art; the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts; the Brooklyn Museum; the Corcoran Gallery of Art; the Portland Art Museum; the Seattle Art Museum; the Art Institute of Chicago; the St. Louis Art Museum; and the Fogg Art Museum, Harvard University.