A new book about American landscape painter William Trost Richards describes the artist’s tribulations while painting the sea from life. Richards says:
“I watch and watch it, try to disentangle its push and leap and recoil, make myself ready to catch the tricks of the big breakers and am always startled out of my self possession by the thunder and the rush, jump backward up the loose shingle of the beach, sure this time that I will be washed away, get soaked with spray, and am ashamed that I had missed getting the real drawing of such a splendid one, and this happens twenty times an hour and I have never got used to it.”
The book was produced by the Cantor Arts Center of Stanford University in California, based on the sizable collection of WTR’s studies inherited by his youngest son in 1905 and donated to the museum in 1992.
The 9.5 x 11-inch book has over 204 pages, with 250 color reproductions documenting the entire collection at Stanford. It includes his Ruskin-influenced early pencil studies of plants, his Adirondack landscapes, and his seascape studies in gouache and oil. Trost Richards was the king of gouache landscape, often working on toned paper to capture transitory atmospheric and aquatic effects.
The emphasis is on his small plein-air studies, which rival those of Frederic Church, Peder Monsted and Ivan Shishkin for impeccably accurate observation. Because Richards worked in this mode well after it was fashionable (he called himself a “fogy”), he is not as well known as he deserves to be.
William Trost Richards—True to Nature: Drawings, Watercolors, and Oil Sketches at Stanford University, by Carole M. Osborne.
Cantor Arts Center’s recent exhibit ended September 26.
Previous GJ posts on Trost Richards: "Outer Limits of the Pencil," "Trost Richards Watercolor," "Called Away,"