DescriptionThe Hon. Paul H. Buchanan Collection
WILLIAM TROST RICHARDS (American, 1833-1905)
Conway Castle, Wales, 1880
Watercolor and graphite on grayish-blue paper
9-3/8 x 14-1/2 inches (23.8 x 36.8 cm)
Signed lower left: Wm T. Richards.
Signed and dated lower right: W.T. Richards 1880
Family of the artist;
Berry-Hill Galleries, New York, 1989;
Purchased from William Vareika, Newport, Rhode Island (label verso).
"Watercolors by William Trost Richards," Berry-Hill Galleries, New York, March 14 - April 15, 1989;
"At Home and Abroad: Landscapes and Seascapes by William Trost Richards," William Vareika Fine Arts, Newport, Rhode Island, August 3 - October 15, 2000.
Watercolors by William Trost Richards, cat. by Linda S. Ferber, Berry-Hill Galleries, New York, 1989, ill. in color p. 28.
During a long sojourn in England from August 1878 to September 1880, William Trost Richards produced a large body of works in watercolor with subjects drawn from the famous coastal scenery of Great Britain. This picturesque, strongly atmospheric, and very freely-painted depiction of Conway Castle reflects a new direction in Richards' use of watercolor which evolved during that trip. He started combining a richly chromatic palette of opaque watercolor (gouache) with transparent washes. The idea was more radical that it sounds since the use of gouache for anything but highlights and accents was regarded both by English and American watercolorists - and their critics - as a taboo "short cut." Traditionally, a master of the watercolor medium was supposed to achieve saturated color exclusively by building up layer upon layer of transparent washes. With this new, iconoclastic approach of mixing the opaque Chinese white or body color with more electric pigments, a painter could create a forceful "zing" of color with far greater immediacy. The relaxation of the traditional technical stricture in watercolor painting apparent in Conway Castle, Wales enabled Richards to paint with the kind of fluidity and brilliance that had been the domain of those working in oil paint.
By the time he painted this Welsh scene, Richards had already achieved considerable critical and financial success for his watercolors. He had begun working in the medium with frequency only after 1860, and by the following decade it had become one of his specialties. By 1873, Richards was regarded as one of the "best known watercolor painters in America" and in 1874 became a member of the Water Color Society. As Linda S. Ferber has noted, "By 1870, watercolor was established in Richards' repertoire as a major mode of expression for the varieties of coastal topography and atmospheric effects that dominated his work in both media [watercolor and oil paint] from 1870 on" (see Literature, p. 6).
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