The Adirondack Museum

Blue Mountain Lake, NY



In Search of the National Landscape: William Trost Richards in the Adirondacks

May 24, 2002 - October 13, 2002


The Adirondack Museum, Blue Mountain Lake, New York, presents, from late May to October 14, 2002, "In Search of the National Landscape: William Trost Richards in the Adirondacks." William T. Richards is still generally thought of as a painter of marine and coastal subjects whose career flourished during the last quarter of the nineteenth century. Less known is the fact that during the first half of a long, busy career, from about 1853 to 1870, he was a prolific and prominent American landscape painter. His experience in the Adirondacks played a critical role in this development. From Adirondack scenery, the young artist produced a series of drawings and paintings that figure among the most important and beautiful records of the region produced at mid century. A year before his death, he returned to the Adirondacks to paint a series of beautiful plein air oil studies at Lake Placid during the summer of 1904. The exhibition will bring together, for the first time, this splendid body of paintings, drawings, and watercolors.

In 1855, early in his career as a rising young American landscape painter, Richards visited the Adirondack region for the first time. This sketchy expedition was a critical turning point in his evolution as a mid-century interpreter of North American scenery as a highly-charged public symbol -- the so-called "National Landscape." The oil paintings produced some two years later from sketches made on this expedition effectively launched his career. In the 1860's, he returned almost every summer to work in the region from 1862 to 1868. He was not alone. Letters, diaries, and the periodical press recorded the summertime artist excursions in the region. These were both solitary ventures and communal expeditions. This literature will enrich the interpretation and understanding of the meaning of this experience, which drew Richards and his fellows to this rugged terrain annually during the turbulent years of the Civil War period. The Adirondack region provided a virtual laboratory in which he worked out a number of landscape agendas. These ranged from the mastery of the mainstream Hudson River School style in the 1850's to experimentation with an extreme realism that established him in the 1860's as a central figure in the short-lived but influential American Pre-Raphaelite movement. His return, many years later to paint at Lake Placid in the summer of 1904, a year before his death, demonstrated the powerful associations the region continued to hold for him and his generation. (left: William Trost Richards, In the Adirondacks)

The opportunity to display a selection of about 25 to 30 Adirondack oil paintings and works on paper, ranging in date from 1855 to 1904, will introduce the visitor to one of the most important, although still lesser-known, mid-century interpreters of the region. Additionally, these works are among Richards' most beautiful and visually compelling paintings and drawings. The early paintings, including the Adirondack Museum's own work of about 1857, demonstrate Richard's complete mastery of the wilderness landscape mode perfected by his professed models and heroes, Thomas Cole, Frederic Church, John Kensett, and Jasper Cropsey. Richards late plein air oil studies, grounded in an empirical investigation of outdoor light and atmosphere, are among the freshest and most beautiful paintings of a remarkably vigorous old age. This exhibition is organized by Richards' scholar, Dr. Linda S. Ferber, and Adirondack Museum Chief Curator and Curator of Art, Caroline M. Welsh.

Read more about The Adirondack Museum in Resource Library Magazine

For further biographical information please see America's Distinguished Artists, a national registry of historic artists.

This page was originally published in Resource Library Magazine. Please see Resource Library's Overview section for more information. rev. 6/3/11

Search Resource Library for thousands of articles and essays on American art.

Copyright 2011 Traditional Fine Arts Organization, Inc., an Arizona nonprofit corporation. All rights reserved.