DescriptionThe Hon. Paul H. Buchanan, Jr. Collection
WILLIAM TROST RICHARDS (American, 1833-1905)
Woodland Landscape (Woodland Glade), 1860
Oil on canvas
17 x 13-3/4 inches (43.2 x 34.9 cm)
Signed and dated lower right: W. T. Richards 1860
Collection of Mr. and Mrs. John Dautrich, in 1980;
Collection of Judith and Wilbur L. Ross, Jr, New York, until 1997;
Purchased from Widing and Peek Fine Art, Inc., New York, April 11, 1997.
L. Ferber, William Trost Richards (1833-1905). American Landscape and Marine Painter (Ph.D. Diss. Columbia University), New York and London, 1980, fig. 188, ill. p. 494;
L. Ferber and W. H. Gerdts, The New Path: Ruskin and the American Pre-Raphaelites, New York, 1985, no. 73, p. 222 (related work in collection of Bowdoin College Museum of Art, Brunswick, Maine).
Woodland Glade of 1860 is one of the finest and earliest American Pre-Raphaelite landscapes by Philadelphia painter William Trost Richards. With all of its gloriously observed botanical detail in the foreground, and the convincing glimpse of a sunlit glade beyond a tunnel of vegetation in the center, the composition relates closely to a horizontal painting of the same site now in the permanent collection of Bowdoin College Museum of Art, Brunswick Maine. Richards spent the summer of 1860 in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, where his student Fidelia Bridges recalled that he "was painting out-of-doors the largest canvas he had ever painted from nature." While Woodland Glade is not the largest he made that summer, it is the most sophisticated among the handful of feverishly detailed, "finished" landscapes he produced in Bethlehem, in oil, entirely outside.
Richards' interest in striving for exacting fidelity to nature can be traced to approximately 1856, when he returned from a year-long tour of Europe. He probably encountered Ruskin's Modern Painters around that time because he started taking summer sketching trips into the Catskills, Adirondacks and the mountains of Pennsylvania, and accumulating careful studies of plants and geological formations as Ruskin recommended. The springboard for Richards' decision to start painting - not simply sketching - outdoors was the American Exhibition of British Art held at the Pennsylvania Academy in 1858. There he would have seen a vast array of Pre-Raphaelite painting, as well as their conventions for framing their works with arched tops - in the manner of Medieval altarpieces.
Indeed, Woodland Glade, with its arched top and mandorla of light emanating from within the deep forest, communicates an intense reverence for nature as the inspiration for art. As such, it epitomizes the Ruskinian ideal.
The stretcher bars for the present work, which appear to be Richards' originals, retain a paper label of German origin which reads, in part: G. Kausz. The bars show evidence of having been cut down from longer lengths as well. The fact that Richards had spent some months in Düsseldorf, just prior to embarking on this group of plein-air landscapes, suggests that he probably reused a stretcher from a painting he had made, or acquired, during his trip abroad.
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