William Trost Richards was born in Philadelphia and began to draw at a young age. At thirteen he was forced to leave school to support his family and found a job designing ornamental metal fixtures. He continued to study art, eventually taking classes at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts and exhibiting his first work there in 1852.
In 1855 he made the first of several trips to Europe to look at art. An admirer of the great American landscape artists of his day, Frederic Edwin Church and John F. Kensett, Richards was also interested in European interpretations of landscape. During his many trips, he visited American artists working abroad. Richards made his home in Philadelphia and spent summers at Atlantic City and Cape May, New Jersey. In 1890 he settled in the seaside town of Newport, Rhode Island.
Rocky coasts, beaches, and rolling waves were the subjects that established Richards' reputation as a painter in the nineteenth century. A draftsman and landscape painter, Richards initially depicted woodland scenes but eventually specialized in seascapes. His work, done in oil and later in watercolor, was highly regarded for its precise detail, and, at the same time, the spaciousness of his scenes.
[This is an excerpt from the interactive companion program to the videodisc American Art from the National Gallery of Art. Produced by the Department of Education Resources, this teaching resource is one of the Gallery's free-loan educational programs.]