William Trost Richards is regarded today as one of our finest landscape and marine painters of the 19th century. The ground breaking retrospective of the Philadelphia native’s work held exactly forty years ago at the Brooklyn Museum of Art played a pivotal role in setting in motion the current estimation of the artist’s talents and accomplishments. This was the first of many significant exhibitions of Richards’ work that have been organized by the art historian and curator Linda Ferber, whose efforts have played a critical role in blazing the trail for the recognition of his achievements as a painter, watercolorist and draftsman. It is especially felicitous that the Academy’s exhibition is taking place on the fortieth anniversary of the showing in Brooklyn.
This exhibition features approximately sixty works from the National Academy Museum’s permanent collection, the majority of which have never been on public view. In 1954, the estate of Richards’ daughter Anna Richards Brewster bequeathed a group of more than one hundred pictures by the artist to the Academy, which cover every aspect of Richards’ long career. At this time the institution also dispersed approximately four hundred works by Richards from the Brewster estate to museums across the United States. In special recognition of Anna Richards Brewster’s generosity and devotion to her father’s accomplishments we include her 1892 portrait of her father, seated before his easel with brush in hand, adding finishing touches to one of his seascapes. Also included are four paintings by Richards borrowed from private collections, which reflect the artist’s development and changing interests as a landscape and marine painter. In preparation for this exhibition a significant group of oils and works on paper from the museum’s holdings were conserved with the support of grants from The Conservation Treatment Grant Program of Greater Hudson Heritage Network, and the Sherman-Fairchild Foundation.
Richards was a native of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. In the 1850s he studied intermittently with the German-born landscape painter Paul Weber, and greatly admired the landscapes of Thomas Cole and Frederic Edwin Church. In the 1860s, Richards came under the influence of the British writer and aesthetician John Ruskin, and the English Pre-Raphaelites. During this decade he began working in watercolor, and his enthusiasm for the medium blossomed in the 1870s when he began to devote his primary attention to marine painting. Over the course of his career Richards was an inveterate traveler in America and Europe. In the 1850s and 1860s, he journeyed throughout the northeast in search of subjects for his brush. In 1874, he spent his first summer working in Newport, Rhode Island. In 1890 he settled permanently in the state, where for most of the decade he resided in a grand house across from Newport, on the southern tip of Conanicut Island, overlooking the Atlantic Ocean. In the late 1870s Richards began traveling to Europe in quest of discovering dramatic coastal scenery. Over the next twenty-five years he nvestigated the shorelines of Great Britain, France and Norway, among other places. At the end of his life Richards rededicated himself to landscape painting, and began making summer trips to the Adirondacks, the site of some of his most important early achievements.
The National Academy thanks Questroyal Fine Art, LLC, New York, NY and William Vareika Fine Arts Ltd, Newport, RI for their support of William Trost Richards: Visions of Land and Sea.
The National Academy is grateful to the following for their generous support of our operations: The Bodman Foundation, The Bonnie Cashin Fund, in honor of Henry W. Grady, the Alex J. Ettl Foundation, the F. Donald Kenney Exhibition Fund, The Estate of Geoffrey Wagner in memory of Colleen Browning, NA, and public funds from the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs in partnership with the City Council.