Skip to main content

Full text of "Masterpieces of the sea. William T. Richards; a brief outline of his life and art"

See other formats


This is a digital copy of a book that was preserved for generations on library shelves before it was carefully scanned by Google as part of a project 

to make the world's books discoverable online. 

It has survived long enough for the copyright to expire and the book to enter the public domain. A public domain book is one that was never subject 

to copyright or whose legal copyright term has expired. Whether a book is in the public domain may vary country to country. Public domain books 

are our gateways to the past, representing a wealth of history, culture and knowledge that's often difficult to discover. 

Marks, notations and other maiginalia present in the original volume will appear in this file - a reminder of this book's long journey from the 

publisher to a library and finally to you. 

Usage guidelines 

Google is proud to partner with libraries to digitize public domain materials and make them widely accessible. Public domain books belong to the 
public and we are merely their custodians. Nevertheless, this work is expensive, so in order to keep providing tliis resource, we liave taken steps to 
prevent abuse by commercial parties, including placing technical restrictions on automated querying. 
We also ask that you: 

+ Make non-commercial use of the files We designed Google Book Search for use by individuals, and we request that you use these files for 
personal, non-commercial purposes. 

+ Refrain fivm automated querying Do not send automated queries of any sort to Google's system: If you are conducting research on machine 
translation, optical character recognition or other areas where access to a large amount of text is helpful, please contact us. We encourage the 
use of public domain materials for these purposes and may be able to help. 

+ Maintain attributionTht GoogXt "watermark" you see on each file is essential for in forming people about this project and helping them find 
additional materials through Google Book Search. Please do not remove it. 

+ Keep it legal Whatever your use, remember that you are responsible for ensuring that what you are doing is legal. Do not assume that just 
because we believe a book is in the public domain for users in the United States, that the work is also in the public domain for users in other 
countries. Whether a book is still in copyright varies from country to country, and we can't offer guidance on whether any specific use of 
any specific book is allowed. Please do not assume that a book's appearance in Google Book Search means it can be used in any manner 
anywhere in the world. Copyright infringement liabili^ can be quite severe. 

About Google Book Search 

Google's mission is to organize the world's information and to make it universally accessible and useful. Google Book Search helps readers 
discover the world's books while helping authors and publishers reach new audiences. You can search through the full text of this book on the web 

at |http: //books .google .com/I 


of tbe 

Tllntversiti^ of Misconsin 

^- 15* 




















JUL 30 1913 



William T. Richards in His Studio at "Gray Clitf" 

(about 1895) Frontispiece 

" Where Tumbling Billows Mark the Coast with Surg- 
ing Foam " 8 

Storm at Point Judith, R. 1 10 

Guernsey Cliffs, Channel Islands 12 

Tantallon Castle, near Berwick, Scotland 16 

Breakers 20 

Mid-Ocean 22 

William T. Richards 26 

Mrs. William T. Richards (Anna Matlack Richards) . . 26 

February 30 

Breakers near The Dumplings, Conanicut, R. 1 36 

A Reef near Newport, R. 1 36 

Cathedral Rocks, Achill Island, West Coast of 

Ireland 40 

Breakers at Beaver Tail, Conanicut Island, R, 1 44 

Sachubst Beach, Newport, R. 1 50 

" When the Flowing Tide Comes In " 50 

The Yellow Carn, Kynance Cove, Cornwall, Wales. . 54 

On the Coast of New Jersey 58 




I have passed so many pleasant hours in the company 

of Mr. Richards that the sweet and strong personality 
has almost replaced in my memory the claims of the dis- 
tinguished artist. He used to come in to see me for a 
chat of half an hour or more, and he would discourse on 
so much that was delightful, yet outside the pale of his 
art, that I sometimes forgot, and still forget, that the 
kindly, intellectual gentleman was also a masterful 

He would enter almost shyly, so modest and quiet 
was he — a short, slight frame, little in keeping with the 
great forces he evoked in his work. He was clad in 
demurest colors and often wore a soft black hat dented 
at the top, which crowned his benign white hair as an 

artist likes. There was nothing of the pose of his craft 



about him, no eccentric hue or fashion ; and yet his man- 
ner, the cast of keen observation in his face, and the 
easy grace of his carriage, denoted the man of original 
thought and unconstrained opinion^ the artist who sees 
a little deeper into objective life than most people, and 
whose instincts are, therefore, less confined to 

No tame acceptance of authority was his ; he thought 
for himself in his gently self-reliant fashion, and he had 
evolved a tranquil philosophy that was drawn both 
from just perception and wide reading. 

And the face below the hat — ^what sweet serenity of 
expression ; what goodness, that would laugh at prudery 
but sympathize with its limitations ; what tolerance and 
friendliness and acceptance; what iavitation to inter- 
course, and what understanding of human needs 1 And 
yet, however much the feelings and heart may have 
been moved, within that face there was no grief and bit- 
terness ; no vain impulses hurried it ; no ambition ruffled 



its surface; only love, that was manly and unassertive, 
and human kindness and intellect that ran into smiles 
and quiet laughter, or into clear receptiveness. Rarely 
have I seen so sweet a masculine countenance in the ma- 

turity of white-haired age, as was his. 

And yet he was a shrewd and careful manager of 
his own fortunes. He had an unconunon grip on those 
affairs in his career which brought his elder years into 
competence and substantial comfort. He well knew 
the worth of his canvases, while always denying them 
the too great qualities assigned by others. He always 
modestly put praise aside with an apt estimate of 
his own talents. He knew he could draw matchlessly, 
and yet there were elements in the portrayal of a break- 
ing wave that he had never achieved to his own satis- 
faction. If you pressed him with commendation on the 
side of drawing he would shield his modesty behind his 
struggles with that miracle of color under the curving 

wave. He had studied this for years. His son tells us 



that " he stood for hours in the early days of Atlantic 
City or Cape May, with folded arms, studying the mo- 
tion of the sea, — until people thought him insane. After 
days of gazing, he made pencil notes of the action of 
the water. He even stood for hours in a bathing suit 
among the waves, trying to analyse the motion." He 
could paint the action and color of the water more faith- 
fully than most artists, and his rendition of it was an 
inspiration to untrained eyes ; but he believed that there 
was a level of truth above his execution, and he kept 
his youth alive to the end in following this ideal. 

His alertness in the business of art was not incom- 
patible with the most unflinching adherence to his 
standards of perfection. His old friend, Mr. W. H. 
WiUcox, tells an anecdote of a one-time celebrated 
picture by Mr. Richards which illustrates this. '' He 
painted," says Mr. Willcox, "a blackberry bush in 
the open air, which almost everybody conversant with 

art in Philadelphia at that period still remembers. Mr. 



J. R. Lambdin made a sketch at the same time, not far 

from where Richards was working. A boy, looking at 

Lambdin's picture, said: ' Mister, how long did it take 

you to make that? ' Lambdin mentioned a few days, 

when the boy said, * Good for you; that fellow up there 

has been all simmier over his.' " In further illustration 

of the trait in question, Mr. Willcox tells us that " the 

pictiu*e was not more than twenty inches long, but it 

made a marked impression in art circles, and sold for 

six hundred dollars. Subsequently the owner became 

financially embarrassed, and asked Richards to sell it 

for him. Richards repUed by promptly taking it off 

his hands at the same price. Richards probably knew 

that he never would do that kind of thing again, and 

wished to retain it. But it finally cracked, though the 

faithful work on it is still visible." 

His eldest daughter, Mrs. William F. Price, also 

has in mind his unfailing standards when she says: 

"" Concerning this time he used to tell a story of his 



young friends and fellow artists. Mocking and jeering 
at his industrious ways, they would come in on pleasant 
summer afternoons when he was either working busily 
to finish a picture or preparing to go out sketching, and 
beg him to go with them on some pleasure trip. He 
was an old fossil, they declared, and would never get 
anywhere in the world if he stuck so fanatically to his 
work. * To succeed you must be a man of the world,' 
said one, who was later, alas ! a tragic and pathetic fail- 
ure. Of the others none in any way approached his 
success, but for all of them he kept an unabated and 
loyal friendship/' 

Perhaps the trait of self-preservation which is so 
often omitted from the equipment of artists, and which 
in the early days of Mr. Richards' youth was conspic- 
uously so, may be of kin with the capacity to see justly, 
which Mr. Richards had in a marked degree, and which 
so many of our earlier painters lacked. He could see 
the details of the blackberry bush with unerring power, 


and he could, even early in life, take note of opportu- 
nity with foresight and courage that yielded him the 
freedom his art required. He knew his strength very 
justly, and he shrewdly relied on it. Mr. Willcox says: 
" He amazed me by getting married and resigning his 
position as designer in order to devote himself entirely 
to his art. I don*t remember which event took place 
first, but I thought the latter extremely unwise — ^and 
so it would have been with anyone else, but timidity had 
no place in his nature." 

All this denotes a touch of life beyond the monopo- 
lizing palette, and in the same vein lie the wide sym- 
pathies with other intellectual currents which made Mr. 
Richards' company so alluring. He was apt in all the 
pleasant devices of conversation, full of humor and 
quiet laughter, full of diverting stories from his travels 
and his contact with life in many countries, and full 
of that large acquaintance with books that furnishes a 

ripe mind with overflowing talk. His household was 



always strewed with books and his memory was strewed 
with their varied contents. But his favorite subject, 
with me, at least, was poetry, and among poets, of 
Wordsworth. He would quote short passages — ^I re- 
member, of the " River Duddon " sonnets — and other 
beautiful and tranquil things, and talk on and on, ly- 
ing back easily in his chair in the fullest enjoyment of 
the subject, until this would lead him to, perhaps, re- 
ligion and creed and dogma, when he would utter those 
independent views of his in well-chosen fluency and 
show the fuller deeps of that ripe and original mind 
which had found so many secrets of the land and sea. 

Even in youth this sympathy with every form of 
intellectual thought and work was evident. Thus he 
became one of the active members of " The Forensic 
and Literary Institute,'' formed of young debaters, sev- 
eral of whom afterwards made fame. One was Frank 
B. Stockton, the humorist and story-teller who invented 
The Lady or the Tiger " ; another was his brother^ 




John D. Stockton, of the New York Herald staff; 
Judge James T. Mitchell, of the Pennsylvania Su- 
preme Court, was a member; and Professor George 
Stewart, of Haverford College; the Rev. J. Spencer 
Kennard, and Judge Ashman, of the Philadelphia Or- 
phans' Court, were others. 

In the fullness of time, the independence of judg- 
ment with which the eager young artist had started out 
was shown in the blessed choice of a wife, and in the 
events which brought f ulfihnent and made a home never 
to be forgotten by those who knew it. We are told that 
Dr. Matlack, the father of Mrs. Richards, was not 
easUy reconcUed to the marriage of his daughter with 
an obscure young artist, whose career might lead to 
trials and severities. But the yoimg man was resolute 
and met the elder with a firm front and a determina- 
tion which, while not melting the stem old Quaker, who 
perhaps looked upon art as an immorality, was not to 

be put aside. The marriage took place in spite of the 



interview, and a long career of brilliant success justi- 
fied the step and reconciled opposing views. It was, 
perhaps, this self-reliance and quiet courage of attitude 

toward daily life which gave the slender frame, the un- 
adventiu*ous cast of mind, a bias for painting the most 

savage seas and the most overpowering cliffs. It was 
always a problem to me why this small, quiet gentle- 
man should have found his joy along the wildest of 
coasts. We associate the big muscular man with such 
employment. But Mr. Richards, light and delicate of 
mould, was fascinated by the grim scenery of Tintagel 
and Staffa and loved the cliffs he found in Maine and 
Hhode Island. 

Indeed, it was he who first built a house on the 
bare granite front of Conanicut Island opposite New- 
port, and it is told of him that he was one day paint- 
ing on this rugged shore when a tidal wave rolled 
in and almost carried him back with it. I do not re- 
member to have seen him swim in the salt, though he 



may have done so when he was younger, and I am told 
that he knew how to swim and taught his children 
to do so, but he never learned to sail a boat, and rowed 
only in a most improf essional way. 

His love for the sea was not of the physical order. 
He had no desire to overcome its force, but he could 
subdue it to his brush, and it was perhaps a sense of 
this which stimulated his passion. He felt his mastery 
and he loved its object. 



William T. Richards (the middle initial standing 
for Trost) was born in Philadelphia on November 14, 
1888. I know little about his early education, nor about 
the family traits that may have inclined him to art in 
an arid and improfitable day. But Miss Fidelia 
Bridges, a pupil and life-long friend, tells of the unusual 
skill of his grandfather Trost, a Dutch goldsmith, from 
whom he may have inherited his manual dexterity and 
his phenomenal patience. 

Sully was about fifty when Richards was born, and 

Stuart had died five years earlier, leaving the field to 

•Neagle and Otis and Inman and the younger Peales; 

but by the time yoimg Richards took up his brush these 

had passed, and their successors were mostly the " idle 

singers of an empty day." Thus he emerged upon a 

barren horizon, and he made for himself those opportu- 



nities for study and association which are needful aids to 

I can do no better, from this stage of Mr. Richards' 
career, than give the outline of his early years furnished 
me. ^th characteristic kindness, by his friend and f el- 
low painter, Mr. W. H. Willcox, of Germantown, 
Philadelphia. Mr. Willcox has thus, genially, set down 
his remembrances: 

" My acquaintance with Mr. Richards began in the 
early fifties of the last century. At that time he filled 
a position in the firm of Archer, Warner & Miskey, 
manufacturers of gas fixtures and other ornamental 
work. Previous to this he was a boy in an Eighth Street 
store, and seeing an advertisement for a designer for 
the above firm he applied for the position. Some de- 
signs were given him to copy, which he did so weU that 
he was awarded the situation, and when I first knew 
him, or soon after, he was receiving a salary of $1500 

a year. His labors for the firm occupied nearly all his 



daylight, but he followed the bent of his ambition by 
drawing on wood at night. I had seen some crude pict- 
ures which he exhibited at the Art Union Galleries, 
which adjoined the building subsequently occupied by 
the Earles, but was not favorably impressed. My pre- 
ceptor, Mr. Isaac L. Williams, had made his acquaint- 
ance, and invited me to call with him, which I did. He 
was then living with his parents in the lower part of the 
city — about Bainbridge Street, I think. I had not 
formed a very high opinion of his ability; but his draw- 
ings quite astonished me, and I recognized his talent. 
There were few young men who aspired to paint in those 
days, and oiu* mutual interest drew us together and de- 
veloped into an abiding friendship. We went sketch- 
ing together, and I counted much upon his criticism of 
my work. I remember our making studies of some fine ^^ 

old chestnut trees at what is now known as Belmont, 
but then as Judge Peters' farm, and each thought his 

own picture the best. He was almost as ambitious as 



a litterateur as he was a painter in those days, and with 
some chosen spirits established a club which they named 
* Forensic and Literary Institute/ I had nothing to 
do with this. Long years after we made a trip to New 
York together and lay awake far into the night talking 
over our boyish experiences, 

" After his marriage he removed his family to the 
coimtry and I lost sight of him for a while. Later he 
occupied a studio in the Art Union building with Alex- 
ander Lawrie. Paul Weber was the most successful 
landscape painter in Philadelphia at the time and repre- 
sented the Germanesque side of the art, and Richards 
was reported to have received instruction from him, but 
I have no knowledge of it, and never thought to ask 
him if it was true. There was, however, no indication 
of it in his manner of painting. Turner and English 
art were in the ascendancy, and Richards became an imi- 
tator of the former with large ambitious canvases of 

which the chief merit lay in the skilful drawing. This, 



however, did not continue very long. One day I met 
him on Chestnut Street, and he told me that he had 
placed a picture in the studio of Mr. Hugh Davids, on 
Fourth Street, which he wanted me to see. I went and 
met Edmimd D. Lewis there. To say that I was both 
surprised and delighted would express my feelings 
mildly. All the previous absurd Turneresque imitating 
had been thrown aside, and he had painted his subject 
directly and most elaborately from nature, spending 
months in its production. It was a complete revolution, 
and was the beginning of his future success. From that 
time on he ignored all fads and adhered to his own 

" He had come to live in Germantown before this, 
first in Greene Street, then at the northeast corner of 
Mill Street and Market Square, from which he removed 
to Penn Street, near what is now Wakefield, where 
he lived many years, and painted some of his most re- 
markable pictures. I passed many very happy hours 

in this last house. 



" During this time he had become acquainted with 
Mr. George Whitney, who became a most enthusiastic 
patron, and for whom he did some of his very best land- 
scape work. Nothing can exceed the wonderful paint- 
ing of tree trunks in some of his wood pictures. 

" During all this time I have no recollection of his 
painting the sea. His first efforts in this direction were 
remarkable for differing from the usual method of 
painting it but were indifferent in quality when com- 
pared with his later work, but he gradually gave his 
attention to it more and more, until the sea and coast 
occupied nearly all his time, his very best work being 
among his latest. 

" Mr. Richards' removal to Newport in the seventies 
was for the express purpose of studying the sea and 
shore at home, and his wise choice was manifest both 
in his work and in his investment, for in addition to his 
talents as a painter, he was remarkably shrewd as a 
business man. He was also an indefatigable and pro- 
lific worker, which was rendered possible by his uniform 



good health. He was intellectual in his tastes, affable 
in disposition, and though not particularly social in his 
habits, was a firm and true friend, whose loss will long 
be felt by those who enjoyed his intimacy." 

There seems to be little doubt that the yoimg 
fellow of fifteen or so, received instruction from Paul 
Weber, and it is probable that this able follower of the 

grand style in landscape was his first teacher. But as 
his powers grew and his knowledge of art and life ex- 
panded, it became necessary to add experience to teach- 
ing, and in 1858, Richards left the designing-room of 
the Archer & Warner firm and devoted himself ex- 
clusively to his art. 

Thus he went on with such self -training and local 
aids as were available until he became of age. He then 
resolved to see more of the world and its stores of art 
than were afforded by the narrow vistas of Philadelphia, 
and with his accustomed pluck he set forth for Europe. 
This was no holiday adventure as now, when the big 



steamers furnish a six-day ferry across the sea. It was 
a serious undertaking, especially if funds were limited, 
as was the lot of young Richards. 

But, with a stout heart and confidence in his own 
talent, he sailed away from home, and visited Paris, 
Florence and Rome, where he spent a good deal of 
time with no express effect upon his painting; though 
contact with the work of the contemporary French and 
Italian schools was a vastly excellent discipline for a 
youth who had hitherto been influenced only by the 
lesser followers of those great men. He never spoke of 
receiving any ideas from such masters, but it was his aim 
to see at first hand what they were producing; and to 
an imaginative lad with ambition to succeed in painting, 
their methods and designs must have been deeply stimu- 
lating. Nor did his art show any effect from a closer 
knowledge of the great works of the Renaissance and 
antiquity. Yet the mental discipline must have been 
quietly powerful and as his drawing grew in precision 



with his maturing talents it is not an extreme presmnp- 
tion to say that his native gift received, at this impres- 
sionable period of his life, its largest force from the 
knowledge of such perfection. We know how such a 
trip affected Benjamin West, his fellow-townsman of 
an earlier day ; how it colored all his after career and 
biased him for what was called " historical painting " 
and made him a leader of his day in the land of Rey- 
nolds and Gainsborough and Constable and Lawrence. 
But this voyage of discovery was, perhaps, the out- 
growth of other instincts than those of art, for the eter- 
nal masculine had, before this, met the eternal femi- 
nine and in seeking his fortunes up and down the 
world he was to learn how to lay the foundations of a 
home as well as to find a broad base for his artistic 


At the house of Robert Pearsall Smith and his wife, 

Hannah Whitall Smith, in Germantown, a suburb of 

Philadelphia, young Richards had met Anna Matlack, 




an ardent, intellectual Quaker girl, who even then had 
written dramas and published verses. The young peo- 


pie were a part of the group, literary and artistic, that 
the Pearsall Smiths attracted to their hospitable house, 
and it was out of the association thus formed that 
they came to know each other better and to prize each 
other for likable traits. 

Thus, before the young painter went to Europe, 
they were engaged to be married, though they had 
agreed to withhold the news from their friends, and 
concerning this romantic episode Miss Bridges says: 
" It was their mutual interest in Browning and Tenny- 
son, and all the poets of that day, which drew them to- 
gether " — a fine start for a household of ideals such 
as found embodiment in the tranquil home to be. 

Its beginning was not long delayed — for on June 
80, 1856, very soon after Mr. Richards' return, they 
were married by Quaker ceremony; not in the home 
of the bride, because the distaste for artists stiQ pre- 



vailed under the austere roof tree of Dr. Charles French 
Matlack, but in the house of the painter's loyal friend, 
Ellis Archer, in Philadelphia. 

The honeymoon was spent in the Wyoming Valley, 
Pennsylvania, and one of their labors of love during 
those first months of happiness was the composition and 
illustration of a manuscript volume of poems for their 
friend, Hannah Whitall Smith, who had brought them 

But these were hard times; there was little or no 
demand for pictures because of the great panic of 1856, 
and the wolf had to be kept from the door by evening 
work on designs for chandeliers for the always friendly 
firm of Archer & Warner. The busy artist did not re- 
turn to the designing room, and stiU kept the precious 
hours of daylight for his own work out-of-doors; but 
the evening labor gave essential help in tiding over criti- 
cal months. 

For about a year after this the family lived in Phila- 



delphia, where their eldest son, named for the friendly 

Mr. Archer, was born on April 80, 1857, and a little 
later they moved to Germantown, probably by May 
or June, 1857, and lived in Church Lane, near Mill 
Street, for nearly two years. . 

It was not until the latter part of 1857 or 1858 that 
the work on gas fixtures was wholly abandoned, and 
the self-reliant young art student pushed out for him- 
self. Hardly can we conceive in our period, when na- 
tive art receives some patronage, the boldness of such 
a step in the Philadelphia of 1858. The early seventies 
developed in young men a restlessness for other ideals 
than those of trade or the professions. The exodus to 
Europe began on the heels of William Hunt's return to 
Boston from France and was inspired by the stimulating 
essays of Earl Shinn. But this was a dozen years later, 
and that dozen years was as hopeless as the Valley of 
the Dead Sea. The city of the Quakers was drab and 

grim and tasteless and respectable and the chance for 



a brave youngster who took his fate in his own hands was 
as one against thousands. 

The English tradition prevailed without the English 
motive. Dunlap has told us in his "History of the 
Arts of Design" that the English of an earlier day 
looked upon Art as beneath an aristocrat; in the Quaker 
town, painting was an unhallowed thing fit only for 
the non-elect. 

But Mr. Richards had stuff in him that would have 
overcome even greater discouragements. He was bom 
for achievement and, without the physical power for 
overcoming natural obstacles, he had the grit and the 
genius for surmounting those of convention. He was a 
character, and if equipped and called, he would have 
gone his independent way, as Mimgo Park did, into un- 
known Africa, or he was prepared to break down bar- 
riers of narrow habit nearer home. 

On June 7, 1858, a second son, Charles Matlack 

Richards, was born, and in that same spring the family 



moved into the Mehl Cottage in Germantown. In 
spite of growing responsibilities and the total lack of 
capital, the young painter kept alive the courage of his 
convictions and painted that summer only one picture — 
" The Tulip Poplar Trees/' It was a wonderfully de- 
tailed study, as all his work was of this period, and 
that he valued afterwards what he then produced was 
shown by his buying back this canvas as well as the 
earlier " Blackberry-bush." Both pictures still belong 
to his family. 

These were the years when he laid the f oimdation 
for his unerring draughtsmanship, and the risks he took 
to acquire it were richly justified by the event. 

Afterwards, if any aspiring young artist asked him. 

How shall I learn to paint? '' his answer always was. 

Learn to drawl " Unlike some advisers, he took his 

own advice; and the nimiber of his careful drawings 

which are still preserved is little short of marvellous. 

Concerning this time. Miss Bridges writes : " In the 





year 1860 I went to 'Philadelphia to study art. Mr. 
Richards, who was ever ready to render help, especially 
to women, kindly proposed my coming to paint in his 
studio, where there were then some half-dozen pupils 
— ^the younger Lambdin; Bispham, the animal painter; 
Arthur Parton, and two or three ladies. It is from 
that time that my friendship with Mr. and Mrs. Rich- 
ards began. The summer of 1860, which I spent with 
them in a cottage in Bethlehem, Pa., was a very hard 
one for them. In the terrible excitement of the first 
year of the war there was no demand for art. He was 
painting out-of-doors the largest canvas he had ever 
painted directly from nature and struggling with the 
difficult problems of it, while he kept an eye on his two 
little boys, who always accompanied him.'' 

Another close friend of this period — ^indeed, his chief 
patron — ^who has already been mentioned, was Mr. 
George Whitney. Every man of genius has had his 

Maecenas. Heaven seems to watch over her chosen 



children, and no doubt Mr. Richards owed much to the 
taste and liberality of this greatly prized friend. Thus, 
in speaking of the pictures which he painted for Mr. 
Whitney, he wrote: " Most of them were selected from 
the studies of each year, and it was the pleasantest part 
of the season to submit to him the results of the sum- 
mer work. His refined love for nature made his cordial 
appreciation an incentive and a reward. The drawings 
became, as it were, the expression of mutual affection, 
and it was to me truly a labor of love to make sure that 
he had the best I could do." 

The simMner of 1860 was marked by the production 
of the already mentioned " Blackberry-bush,*' and when 
the season at Bethlehem was past the family seems to 
have returned to the Mehl Cottage in Germantown, and 
in 1861 they moved to a cottage at the corner of Coulter 
and Greene Streets, where they stayed about two years. 

In 1862, the oldest daughter, now Mrs. Eleanor 

French Price, was bom, who possesses not a little of 



her father's talent, and in 1868 they moved to Market 
Square and Mill Street — a quiet, odd comer which 
always seems to me a fitting frame for that old fashioned 
family. In 1865, they moved to No. 9 Penn Street, a 
large stone house next to the place of Mrs. Richards' 
father. This was the first house which the advancing 
young painter owned and he held it for twenty years. 

Now, another daughter was bom, who died in in- 
fancy, and in the next year — 1866 — ^Mr. Richards took 
his family to Europe, spending the winter mostly at 
Darmstadt and Dusseldorf . This is a significant date 
because it denotes that Mr. Richards had heard the call 
of Europe earlier than his fellow craftsmen and he 
must have been amongst the very first of the yoimger 
men of his time to go. His earlier visit had been one 
of observation, but now he was intent on the study of 
new theories. It was a progressive step and an adven- 
turous one at that date, before the allurements of 

France had begun to act, and when only Chase and 



Duveneck were contemplating like exodus from other 

American cities. A flying visit to Italy was also 

squeezed into the few months of study, and in the middle 

of December, 1867, they sailed for home on the Fulton, 

the last trip across the ocean of a paddle-wheel 


One of the children describes this voyage vividly: 

" They had from the first a very severe voyage, and 

as they approached New York, after nearly two weeks 

at sea, such a terrific snow storm came up that they had 

to put to sea again, without coal and leaking badly. To 

make matters worse the decks were coated thickly with 

ice and one paddle box was smashed. The wreckage was 

cleared away so as to allow the paddle wheel to revolve 

only with the greatest difficulty. Everyone on board, 

including the captain, almost gave up hope, but the 

ship pulled through safely and staggered into New 

York after a voyage of seventeen days.'' Among the 

fellow voyagers on this exciting trip were Mr. Samuel 



P. Avery, the New York picture dealer, and his family 
and the congenial friendship made at that time with 
this generous and intelligent man was a source of pleas- 
ure and encouragement through all the rest of Mr. 
Richards' career. In yet another way this remark- 
able voyage greatly influenced his subsequent life. It 
was then for the first time that his mind fully realized 
the majesty, power and beauty of the sea, and this im- 
pression, deepening with the years, led to the memorable 
pictures we all know so well. 

A month after this, on January thirtieth, the son 
who was destined to attain the most notable distinction, 
was bom. This was Theodore William Richards, who 
is now Professor of Chemistry in Harvard College, a 
great discoverer in physical science and recently ex- 
change professor at Berlin. His birth took place in 
the house of his grandfather. Dr. Charles F. Matlack, 
because Mr. Richards' house, next door, was still rented. 

From now till 1878 the winters were spent in the 





Gennantown house with excursions in the summer to 
various places, and after this period began the visits to 
the seaside, at first to Cape May and then to Atlantic 
City, which have left so deep a vein in the work of the 
painter of the ocean. 

During these years Mr. Richards devoted much 
time to the study of the technique of water-color, using 
both transparent and opaque color, and both white and 
colored paper. Charming and delicate drawings were 
made in great number, many of them having been pur- 
chased by his beloved old friend. Dr. Magoun, who upon 
his death presented a large collection of them to the 
Metropolitan Museum in New York. In the course 
of this work he evolved a somewhat original technique 
of painting large landscapes after the manner of Tur- 
ner's " Rivers of France," in body water-color on the 
coarse, gray paper used at that time for lining carpets, 
which cost but a few cents a yard — and he was fond of 

saying that he got his paper so cheap that he could af- 



ford to use more water ! One of his colleagues tells us 
that : " they were very difficult to execute, and their ex- 
cellence depended entirely upon his knowledge of the 
nature of the changes which drying produced in his 
colors, for they looked entirely different wet and dry. 
But many of them were remarkable pictures." After- 
wards he returned almost wholly to the use of trans- 
parent color on white paper, and gradually developed 
unusual facility in the vigorous and sympathetic hand- 
ling of this fascinating medium. 

It was not until 1874 that the family rented a house 
in Newport, R. I. But in the next year Mr. Richards 
bought a place there, on Gibbs Avenue, which he kept 
for seven years. Meantime, in 1870, the daughter 
named Anna Mary was born — ^now Mrs. William 
Tenney Brewster — ^whose talent for design is a conspic- 
uous token of the hereditary trait, and whose successes 
in England are remembered by those who knew her in 
the circle of Watts; and in 1871, Herbert Maule Rich- 
ards, now a professor at Columbia College, was bom. 



In 1878, the family spent two years in England, 
laying foundations on those coastwise cliffs which led 
to the impressive canvases of rocks and surf of later 
days. There was a brief stay in Paris, too ; but cheer- 
ful winters were spent in London, and the summers 
passed at various villages on the south and southwest 
coast of England, and Professor Theodore Richards 
says that during these years his father learnt much about 
rocks, and the complex wave motion caused by a broken 

In October, 1880, the family came back to the Ger- 
mantown house; and the next year saw the building 
of the house on the cliffs at Conanicut Island in Rhode 
Island, which was called: " Gray Cliff.'' This was meant 
only for the summer, when it is possible to paint out- 
doors on that wild coast. But the needs of the inces- 
sant student of nature induced the exchange of the Ger- 
mantown house for a large farm six miles from Coates- 
ville, in the Chester Valley, Pennsylvania, where land- 
scape could be overtaken in its more surly moods of 



autumn and winter. For some reason Mr. Richards 
was curious about Mt. Tacoma, and in 1885 he took a 
trip to the Pacific coast to see it. If two or three large 
paintings of the mountain are excepted, no visible re- 
sults to his art seem to have followed, as he went on 
in his accustomed pathways, holding his homes intact 
in Chester Valley and Conanicut until March, 1890, 
when he bought a cosy, homely house at an angle of 
one of those pretty Newport streets that go nowhere 
but to your own front door. This he alternated with 
" Gray Cliff '* and with seasons in Europe between 1885 
and 1890. He would disappear for a time to come back 
laden w;ith canvases and a smiling and genial vitality 
which made his welcome glad and warm. He rarely 
spoke of his absence, sometimes to point an anecdote 
or explain a picture; and I remember, once, how he 
brought back a series of bewitching water-colors trel- 
lised all over with roses, of a country house in England 

and its lovely court-yard, where he had been staying. 




He was usually reticent until animated by some lurking 
memory or the wish to make plain a conviction. 

Among the summer journeys there were two rather 
adventurous ones with his wife, the first to the wild west- 
em coast of Ireland, when they drove over four hundred 
miles in jaunting cars, and another to the extreme north 
of Scotland, including the Orkney and the Shetland Is- 
lands. He found many subjects and much inspiration 
in both places. During the Scotch trip they journeyed 
for a while with Mr. and Mrs. Andrew Carnegie. 

Then, the winters spent in the Channel Islands, es- 
pecially on Guernsey, were also full of fruitful results 
in his art, but he always came back to Newport with a 
feeling of happiness in his own home which no foreign 
excitements or " Reiselust " ever dispelled. 

But, in 1899, the tranquil flow of Mr. Richards' ideal 

family life at Newport was interrupted by the loss of 

" Gray Cliff." The United States Government wanted 

the commanding site for a fort, and there was no appeal. 



It stood — ^a long, shingled house with a roof that 
tucked it snugly in, with porches overlooking the sea, 
and walks around about on the rocks, with the rich ver- 
dure of that coast running to the friendly threshold, and 
with its little detached gray studio in hailing distance 
as you approached it — ^it stood on a cliff made con- 
spicuous from land and sea by a jagged white streak 
of quartz running up through the gray rock to the door- 
way. It looked out on the changeless blue horizon, on 
the curving granite coast, and on the dune-like " Dump- 
lings,** where an older generation had set the ancient 
fort of that name, now, alas, gone with " Gray Cliff." 
How well I recollect the somewhat rueful fun of Mr. 
Richards as he pointed to the adjoining "Marbella," 
where his old friend Joseph Wharton had built a mas- 
sive wall in which great boulders were stuck at inter- 
vals. The artist's love of unhindered nature gave edge 
to his remark: " Wharton's Teeth." 

Indoors there was comfort and the invitation to en- 



joy plenteous books and talk. Mrs. Richards was over- 
flowing with humor, and her original opinions were ut- 
tered in a quick, resonant, almost masculine voice, and 
with a delightful duck of the head and glance of the 
black eyes. She was of medium height, stout, and busy, 
and hospitable, and gave but little evidence in casual 
intercourse of the tremendous character and the fund 
of erudition within. She had previously educated those 
sons for college who have entered learned professions, 
and one of whom is celebrated the world-round for his 
discoveries in chemical and physical science; and she 
had not only presided over a household and reared tal- 
ented children, but she was an unremitting force in her 
husband's career. Well can I still hear her amusing 
rally about the difference said to exist between the free, 
richly colored sketches and the finished pictures : 

" I throw tables and chairs at William to make him 
paint broadly " — and then a laugh contagious and un- 




But besides all her housewifely duties, she was 
busy with her well-furnished mind, and those who 
have had the fortune to possess the volume of her son- 
nets, called " Letter and Spirit," must acknowledge the 
existence of an original talent for poetry and an inde- 
pendence of thought and belief above the level of her 
day. Sonnet XVIII marks the poetic type, and her 
deeply religious, but quietly individual, point of view. 

Alone in this dim summer light, — ^the air 

Of ocean in the long sea-grass, and flight 

Of shining mist above me, what delight 

To seem a part of nature's self, and dare 

For these brief moments to forget my share 

In life's great tragedy of Wrong and Right 

Before the listening heavens. On what clear height 

Far from the inward voices, from despair. 

Above the irretrievable years, thou reignst, 

O Nature, fair as in the dawn of Earth! 

Nor storms nor sunbeams ever reach thy soul; 

And I, forever conquered, fight against 

The inexorable limits of my birth. 

And learn no wisdom from thy self-control. 



And turning from these introspective sonnets, what 
a contrast to open the pages of her buoyant and self- 
forgetful fun, which was not so much an imitation of 
the " Alice " books as a continuation of them. She had 
absorbed and given out to her children all that " Alice " 
held; and, wanting more, she made it — ^made it with an 
invention and gaiety which ought to have won the 
heart of "Lewis Carroll" himself. The illustrations 
by her daughter, Anna, are another evidence of the gifts 
the mother fostered in that busy and happy household. 

Indeed, Mrs. Richards is so much of a part of the 
intellectual career of Mr. Richards, so inwoven in his 
fibre, that to describe her is further to personify him. 

But even so rare a flower, so beautiful and difficult 
of growth, as a home like his and hers, must fade. It 
seems a waste of nature to rear such associations, such 
delicate and fragile ties, mingled of high aims and af- 
fectionate hopes, fair counsels and firm convictions, and 
then let them dissolve. How can a delicate creation 

like that arise again in a world which opposes simplicity 



and makes light a moderation? Nature, I repeat, seems 
prodigal of her best fruits when she allows a hallowed 
and tranquil fireside to fade into forgetfulness. 

Mrs. Richards died at Newport in November, 1900, 
and from this separation Mr. Richards never quite re- 
covered. He painted and travelled, even to the bleak 
north coast of Norway, but his home on the rocks was 
gone and she was gone who had embodied its spirit in 
herself. He was lonely and growing old, and though 
his household was made cheerful by grandchildren, and 
his daughter, Mrs. Price, watdied over him tenderly, 
he seemed, as I remember him then, to ebb into pathetic 
old age. 

Of those days there lingers in my vision one char- 
acteristic glimpse: of the dark slouch hat covering the 
silvery hair; the black-coated, slight figure; a wind- 
blown umbrella and the quick insistent step as he left 
me from a trolley-car and pushed on into the rain. He 

was thinly clad for that tempest and I urged him to 



stay with me. We were returning from a journey 
East, but he had a sister in Philadelphia whom he wanted 
to visit and his decisive mind was made up. He disap- 
peared through the narrow brick street and I had no 
other sight of him for months. Then, he was old and 
weary and sad. 

He died in the Newport house on November 8, 1905, 
and was buried at Laurel Hill, in Philadelphia. 



What was there in the sea pictures of Mr. Richards 
that picked them out from all others for remembrance; 
that made it easy for the most critical layman to say 
with conviction: " That's a Richards "? 

In the first place they were frankly true. He 
painted what he saw. He made no effort to put into 
the picture what was not in nature. 

No sensational composition; no strained effects of 
light and shade; no affected accent of any sort were in 
his mind. He wanted the observer to see what he had 
seen and he set it down with the sense of proportion and 
the eye to justness which were his central traits of 

Perhaps it was this recognition of simplicity as the 

touchstone of the artist that gave Mr. Richards his bias 

for Wordsworth. Those who know Wordsworth's 

epochal preface to the " Lyrical Ballads " will under- 



stand the affinity. The great English poet and seer laid 
down the law that for over. two generations has gov- 
erned English poetry. There was to be no more arti- 
ficiality, no more theatrical appeal, no more rhetoric 
and antithesis and imnatural posing. The mellow Eng- 
lish speech was to return to the nursery and it was to 
tell tales of plain life, unvarnished natvu-e, simple reality. 
This was the preference of Mr. Richards as an 
artist. He looked out at nature in a reverent spirit. He 
had instincts to copy and to interpret. He never felt 
the need to add adornments of his own or to force his 
personality into the transcript. His was not the fame 
at stake, but nature's. He never thought of himself. 
He was not a high priest in theatric robes ; but an hum- 
ble worshipper. Why should he be supplying additions 
or trimmings to a sight already so overpowering in its 
beauty and mystery? If he could get the facts stated 
in a language every eye could recognize — ^that was a 

great thing, that was the duty nature was fulfilling 



through him. He was to see justly and report accu- 
rately and the soul within him would make pictures if 
he only kept his head level and his eye alert and bent 
to his task. 

Without a soul to respond to something larger in 
nature than the detail, this faithful copying would, of 
course, result only in an accurate photograph. There 
would be a transcript, with the spirit omitted, as in the 
case with so much that is called art — a semblance of 
form without its moving principle. 

But it was Mr. Richards' high merit as a man and as 
an artist that he brought to this task, so devotedly and 
lovingly performed, a soul that infused life into the 
work ; that he lent it his own devout and tender love of 
beauty and his veneration of nature's living impulse. 
He copied what he saw with minute fidelity; he was 
led to copy because he loved what he saw and recog- 
nized the divine light shining through its surfaces; but 

if he had not also brought to the worship of nature the 





soul which stood for him, and him alone — ^his penetrat- 
ing individuality — ^he would not have made works which 
all his contemporaries acknowledge as embodiments of 
truth and beauty when they say: " That is a Richards." 
And this suffusion of his art into himself was shown 
as weU in his color. He was not at the beginning a 
rich or great colorist. If he had shortcomings in his 
talent, color was the principal of them. He had indi- 
viduality and personal traits in his color as he had in 
all he did. This was another manifestation of the 
spirit's influence which made a unit of his work. All 
that he did stood for something distinctly emanating 
from himself. But color was not his strong point, as 
were fidelity and drawing and composition and selec- 
tion. He was nearly always unerring in these, but in 
color he was sometimes perfect in detail, as often with 
that diflScult under-side of a wave curving to a fall 
where the sudzy white mingles with the ineffable green ; 

and again he would fail to give the freshness 



and floating depth to a sky full of clouds, or the silvery 
gray of a long vista of New Jersey beach. He knew 
nature so well, was so much in her secrets, that he was 
alive to all her myriad beauties of tint and changing 
hue; but his paint did not always take on the magic of 
his model, tho' in pictures like that memorable one of 
the bare tracery of the trees against a winter's sunset 
his brush was dipped into tones that were not far from 
nature's own. 

It was, indeed, characteristic that Mr. Richards 
should restrain himself in the use of color. His whole 
life was one of salutary restraint. He was half -Quaker 
in his treatment of the alternatives which life presented 
to him. He liked simple clothes, and plain surround- 
ings; why should he not see nature in her simpler 
colors; or, when confronted with a choice, cleave to the 
subdued and quiet and imsensational? He had his own 
wise ways and he followed them whether they led from 

convention or not. He would no doubt have admired 



Lumenaise or Ryder for glorious and precious color; 
no doubt he enjoyed the varied fashions in dress of 
France and Italy; but he did not adopt the one nor 
covet the other — ^he went, like the single-hearted gentle- 
man he was, after his own leading and independently in- 
terpreted his own mind. 

We are told that sometimes in speaking of his earlier 
work, he would call it monochromatic, and this was, in 
the main, a just criticism from a self -analysing spirit; 
but those also who have seen many of his last canvases 
must recognize a veritable " sea-change " in his variety 
and richness of color — ^not constant but occasional, and 
indeed sometimes implying that he too, like Thomas 
Hovenden and Alexander Harrison, had instinctively 
taken what was best, by compromise and adaptation, from 
the Impressionists. Indeed, he was glad to express his 
obligation to this modem school for help when he felt 
that he could well accept it; although he abhorred the 

prevalent neglect of careful drawing and inattention to 



form and modelling. His always progressive mind 

was thus alert for what could add to his equipment even 

when he had passed into the sixties. 

It was in drawing that Mr. Richards was a master. 

From the first this seems to have been implanted in 

him. I do not mean that it came instinctively; no such 

trait ever comes without work and thought. But the 

germ of correct vision and apt manual dexterity must 

have been born with him; and luckily he was gifted with 

a mind and a bodily diligence which brought that germ 

out and developed it to its limit. His patience and his 

diligence were, of course, essential to the full flowering 

of this faculty. He could not have drawn so masterfully 

if he had not studied unceasingly; but this is only saying 

that Mr. Richards WiEis a marked man from the start, 

and if I make this clear in a loving attempt to do him 

justice I shall have done all I sought to do. 

I have seen that other master of drawing, William 



M. Chase, stand before a marine of Mr. Richards' and, 
lifting his stovepipe hat, with a low bow, say: 

" I take my hat off to him. He's a master of draw- 
ing — I take off my hat " 

And if any one wanted to test this faculty of Mr, 
Richards' artistic equipment, after such authoritative 
statement, he need only look at the black and white re- 
productions of the varied marines and landscapes and 
notice how much they resemble photographs direct from 
nature; how true they are to the form, and mass and 
relative distance and aerial perspective of the world 
about us. This is what is meant by drawing, and only 
a draughtsman of genius can draw with paint in that 
faultless and fearless manner. 

The sister-sense to drawing — ^indeed, the elder sis- 
ter — ^is, of course, observation. Without keen insight 
and the patience to watch the processes of nature that 

abound in beautiful profusion about us, there is no f oun- 



dation for reproducing them enduringly with a brush. 
What you don't observe you cannot describe or depict. 
We have seen that this trait of unhurried and penetrat- 
ing observation was one of those gifts on which Mr. 
Richards built his life. He meant to see nature close and 
see it whole, and he never faltered from the beginning 
in this principle of design and drawing. He needed to 
draw the movement and animation of breaking or surg- 
ing waves, and he went to the best school in the uni- 
verse, the surf itself. He found the picturing of the 
sea a tradition established by Claude and continued 
by Turner. Vague breadths and reaches of the shores 
and the ocean were suggested by color and form, and 
deep vistas of sunlight or cloud carried the eye away 
from fact into the unreality of visions — ^beautiful, in- 
spiring and masterly as dreams; but more in the nature 
of " impressions " than those so-called of our time. 
This rendition of the facts that Mr. Richards loved 

he could not accept. For him, nature was supremely 



beautiful only when it was true, and he resolved, with 
the spirit of his age upon him, to give up visions and 
seek the miraculous facts. 

It is to illustrate this characteristic that I am going 
to quote a passage from one of the soundest critics of 
art we have had in this country, Dr, Alfred C. Lamb- 
din, an old friend of Mr. Richards', whose deeply-based 
views never faltered in dealing with the artist's gifts. 

" With that power of analysis which always distin- 
guishes him he strove to ascertain the laws which gov- 
ern the wave forms, and from that time for several 
years he devoted all his intelligence to the study of the 
sea. To him was given in reward that rare opportunity 
which comes to so few men, to do a new thing. No 
artist had ever before studied the wave motions in an 
exact and scientific manner, so as to understand the re- 
lations of one wave to another and of all to the under- 
currents and the wind and the tide, and all those va- 
ried forces which make the water on one shore, or under 



one sky, so different from the water on another shore 
or under another sky. This study was an arduous one. 
The facts must all be stored in the memory and the ef- 
fect worked out by a mental process. To do this and 
at the same time add to the result of an intellectual 
process the vigor and robustness which comes from work 
done directly in the presence of the thing depicted was 
an impossibility all at once, and the earlier attempts 
were marked by a thinness and smallness of style, which 
gave great offense to the learned art critics. But no 
one could deny that the facts were for the first time ac- 
curately stated, and the effect upon the other painters 
of the sea was immense. It worked a revelation in the 
minds of the younger men; and it will never again be 
possible to make the world accept the old-fashioned wave 
drawing for accurate representation." 

It would hardly be possible to estimate the number 

of pictures produced by Mr. Richards in his long and 





busy career. From the eighteen-fif ties to nineteen hun- 
dred and five is a wide stretch — ^fifty-five years of cease- 
less sowing makes a great harvest. But nobody could 
now trace all the work he did. We realize its extent 
by the examples known to each of us, prized dearly by 
their owners and held in many American cities publicly 
and privately. 

If the many who own " A Richards " could be led 
to tell us of it, the record would roll up a great tribute 
to the genius and industry of one independent Ameri- 
can man of thought and action in a day of apathy; and 
it would prove, some time, of value for the annals 
of a period in American art, rich in its formative influ- 
ences toward a distinctive national school. 

Of this movement, William T. Richards was a be- 
ginner and a leader. If we stand now for anjiihing 
in art it is for the straightforward conveyance of facts. 
This is not the utmost limit of any art. There are 

ideals beyond facts and imaginative truths beyond ideals. 



But no national art has ever begun at the top and grown 
backwards. Method must be learnt before the thing to 
be expressed and the thing expressed comes before im- 
aginative excursions. Through these stages we have 
been going, and one of the surest and safest guides in 
method and expression was Mr. Richards. He had his 
own ideals, his own visions of grandeur in cliff and sea, 
he made his own adventurous way in the dizzy places 
of higher art, and he has left noble examples, poetic 
and upUf ting. But his great merit was his painstaking 
application, his impeccable drawing, his humble and 
loving observation of nature, and his mastery of his art* 

One of the lasting impressions of one's life is that 

scene at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, 

when it was in its glory and conferred on its old and 

honored pupil and Academician the highest award in its 

gift: the Gold Medal of Honor. At that dinner, where 

all the American artists of the time were grouped 



amongst their works, he was acclaimed by his peers for 
his merits, and his modest emotions are never to be for- 
gotten, his pleasure and his deprecating, appealing 
acceptance of recognition, so generous and so just. 

His had been a long patient journey, traversing 
many ways of deprivation and many upward and down- 
ward paths. There were honoris enough — ^at the " Cen- 
tennial," in 1876, in Paris, and in Philadelphia at an 
earlier day; but this was the culminating glory and it 
came fitly at the end : a golden crown for his silver locks.