The first monographic examination of William Trost Richards’s (1833–1905) art in Boston, this exhibition explores the artist’s career from his earliest sketches and exemplary Pre-Raphaelite technique of the 1860s, to his late masterful seascapes and landscapes. Richards’s landscapes in particular come to light within the context of the nineteenth century’s burgeoning appreciation for the environment. The exhibition reveals how Richards’s works manifest the Romantics’ hieroglyphic interpretation of nature, a metaphor embraced by Ralph Waldo Emerson and Henry David Thoreau, and reflect nascent scientific discoveries of contemporary geologists who revolutionized understanding of evolution and history.
“William Trost Richards: Hieroglyphs of Landscape” features more than 180 oil paintings, watercolors, drawings, and sketchbooks, including many seldom-seen works owned by descendants of the artist. Other outstanding contributions come from Bowdoin College Museum of Art; Brooklyn Museum; Davis Museum at Wellesley College; Mark Twain House & Museum; McMullen Museum of Art; the Metropolitan Museum of Art; Museum of Fine Arts, Boston; Nantucket Historical Association; Newport Art Museum; Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts; William Vareika Fine Arts; and many private collectors.
An accompanying scholarly catalogue, edited by Jeffery Howe, contains essays by Ethan F. Baxter, Rebecca Bedell, Linda S. Ferber, Howe, and James D. Wallace. The writers probe the artist’s background and psychology, illuminating links between his works and the artistic, geologic, and philosophical currents of his era.
Organized by the McMullen Museum, “William Trost Richards: Hieroglyphs of Landscape” has been curated by Jeffery Howe and underwritten by Boston College with major support from the Patrons of the McMullen Museum and Mary Ann and Vincent Q. Giffuni.