William Trost Richards
In 1972, on a trip to the Vose Gallery, I made the right choice when confronted with two works by W.T. Richards: a loosely painted oil marine and an exquisitely drawn and detailed watercolor marine. I was attracted to marines from the very beginning and really liked these two pieces, but I believed, like many, that oils were certainly more important, more substantial than works on paper. Yet the early watercolor, dated 1871 and entitled Appledore Coast, seemed to me a much better painting. So I cast aside my perception and selected the piece I liked best. W. T. Richards was a Philadelphia-born artist who worked almost solely in oils, producing landscapes in the highly detailed Pre-Raphaelite tradition favored during the 1860s. As the popular fondness for this mode of expression wained, Richards began around 1869 to focus more on small watercolors of coastal themes, and by 1870 and 1871, this medium and subject matter became a substantial portion of his oeuvre. Ultimately, it has been marine subject matter that is most associated with his name. This piece is a quintessential example of Richard’s earlier fascination with precision and detail, found in the rocks, and grand atmospheric effects, evident in the water and distant suggestions of the shoreline. At the time I chose this piece, I didn’t know all of this, and today these smaller watercolor works on paper are often more highly prized and sought after than larger but typical oils.