WILLIAM TROST RICHARDS
oil on canvas, 24 1⁄2 x 36 inches,
signed and dated lower left "W. T. Richards '91"
The artist; Private Collection, Connecticut, by
descent in the family to Jane & Alan Mali,
Norfolk, Connecticut; Norfolk Library, Norfolk, Connecticut;
The Greenwich Gallery, Greenwich, Connecticut;
Private Collection, New Jersey.
William Trost Richards’ paintings of the New England coastline have set the standard for excellence in American seascape painting. His luminist views of the Rhode Island, New Jersey and Massachusetts coastlines dramatically capture waves crashing against rocks or calm rolling seas. He often visited his favorite beaches painting Cape Ann, Newport, New Jersey and Conanicut Island on repeated trips.
In 1882 William Trost Richards built a summer cottage on the southernmost heights of Conanicut Island, which looks across Rhode Island’s Narragansett Bay towards Newport. He called his cottage “Gray Cliff”, reflecting both the spectacular geological formations of the sea-washed coast and the predominant hue of summer fog and haze. The current lot, dated 1891, was likely painted in his studio at “Gray Cliff.”
The present canvas depicts rolling waves along a sandy shore. In the background, the sun peaks through the clouds to cast a warm glow over the water creating a Luminist view. In the foreground, a seagull gives the viewer a sense of the expansive vista.
Richards was born in Philadelphia in 1833. He abandoned his formal education at age 13 to work and help support his family. He pursued painting privately studying under William Stanley Haseltine and Paul Weber in Philadelphia. Wealthy patrons supported his continued study in Europe where together with Hiram Powers, Emanuel Leutze, Frederick Church, John Kensett and Albert Bierstadt he traveled. By the 1850s, Richards was an established landscape artist exhibiting at Knoedler galleries and supported mainly by private commissions from his friend and patron, Asa Whitney.
Richards was a devoted seascape painter. His best paintings, as in the present lot, capture the light and atmosphere of the scene. He accomplished this by making numerous watercolor studies painted on-site en plein air.
Richards was a member of the National Academy of Design. His works are represented in many public institutions including the Brooklyn Museum, the Cooper-Hewitt Museum of Decorative Arts and Design, The Corcoran Gallery, The Metropolitan Museum of Art and the Newark Museum among others.