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Museum: 10:00 AM - 7:00 PM
Gardens: 7:00 AM - 5:30 PM
Today's Hours
Museum: 10:00 AM - 7:00 PM
Gardens: 7:00 AM - 5:30 PM
Richards, William Trost
Collection: American Collection
Specialty: Paintings
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A native of Philadelphia, William Trost Richards studied art in the 1850s
with German painter Paul Weber, but the painter who most influenced his
early work was Thomas Cole. In 1854, Richards opened his first studio and
also became a member of Hudson River School circles, becoming friendly
with Frederic Church and Jasper Cropsey as well as other members. Within
the next two years, he traveled to Europe, studying the art there and
eventually becoming interested in the work of the Pre-Raphaelites.

By 1870, however, Richards had become interested in the style that was
later to be known as luminism. One of the distinctions between the work of
the luminists and that of the Hudson River School was the actual size of
the paintings. The Hudson River paintings reflected the immensity of their
subjects in the size of their canvases; the luminists suggested sublimity
through scale, not size. A clear example of this type of work is Richards'
"On the Cornish Coast" with its horizontal planes and diagonal bands of
coastline. While Frederic Church's "The Heart of the Andes", considered a
masterpiece of the Hudson River School, is a majestic 66" by 119", "On the
Cornish Coast" is on a standard 10" by 18" canvas.

The concentration on water and sky as windows on the soul is the reason
why the predominant form of landscape among the luminists was the
seascape. In one sense, it is the only place they, as the last vestige of
transcendentalism, could go. The frontier was rapidly closing; there were
no more undiscovered areas of America. So, for the luminists, in the words
of critic Robert Hughes, "the sea's immense inviolability makes up for the
loss of wilderness on land." These seascapes are not the pounding waves
and terrible tempests associated with painters like Winslow Homer; they
are still, reflective waters, their horizon line a mere shading in tone
between sea and sky and possessed of a sort of hushed light, glowing from
within the painting.

Richards continued to work in this mode for the rest of his life,
specializing in watercolors at a time when most artists devoted themselves
to oil paintings, a preference that would eventually be echoed, as would
his choice of subject, in the works of Homer. Befitting his love of the
sea, he spent the last years of his life in Newport, Rhode Island where he
died in 1905.

Everl Adair, Director of Research and Rare Collections