New Jersey Remembered: A Seventy-fifth Anniversary; Philadelphia Collection 75; October 2005
William Trost Richards
New Jersey Shore
Oil on canvas, 17 3/4 × 30 1/4 inches
Signed and dated at lower left: “Wm T Richards 1870”

William Trost Richards was born in Philadelphia and began to draw at a young age. After the death of his father in 1847 he withdrew from Central High School to support his family and worked as a designer of ornamental metal fixtures. Richards and William Stanley Haseltine (1835–1900) studied painting with German landscape painter Paul Weber (1823–1916) in 1850 and took classes at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, where he first exhibited in 1852 and was elected an academician the following year. During the early 1850s he went on sketching trips to the Hudson River Valley in New York and met such noted landscape painters as Frederic Edwin Church (1826–1900), Jasper F. Cropsey (1823–1900), and John F. Kensett (1816–1872). In 1855 he went to Europe and toured the continent with Haseltine and the artist Alexander Lawrie (1828–1917). Richards returned to Philadelphia the following year, married, and settled in Germantown. Early in his career Richards painted forest scenes in the extremely detailed style advocated by John Ruskin and the Pre-Raphaelites, and he joined the Society of Truth in Art in 1863.1 Richards was elected an honorary member of the National Academy of Design in 1862 and a full academician in 1871.

Following a second visit to Europe in 1866, Richards began to concentrate on marine subjects, and he achieved fame for his depictions of coastal scenes. Linda S. Ferber has noted that before 1874, when Richards made Newport, Rhode Island, his “permanent summer residence, summer months were largely spent traveling to various spots on the coast, from New Jersey to Maine and sketching the different ‘combinations of Rock and beach and sea.’”2 He became adept at watercolor and joined the American Watercolor Society in 1874. He lived in Great Britain from 1878 to 1880 and had a studio in London. Subsequently Richards returned to Philadelphia and spent some summers in Atlantic City and Cape May.

Richards’s first documented New Jersey marine scene was a Scene on the Coast of New Jersey (location unknown) that he exhibited at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts in 1861. Painted in 1870, New Jersey Shore is an excellent and representative example of Richards’s favorite subject, waves rolling over lonely, sandy expanse of beach, painted with the meticulous technique characteristic of his best work. The composition suggests that it is closely related to The Lone Trees, Coast of New Jersey (location unknown), which he exhibited at the Royal Academy in 1871 and received favorable mention from critics. One of Richards’s most famous beach scenes was the monumental On the Coast of New Jersey (1883, Corcoran Gallery, Washington, D.C.).3 Richards began to paint panels such as Waves Crashing Against the Shore (plate 21) in the late 1880s; the looser handling of the paint also suggests that it dates from later in the artist’s career.


1. This aspect of Richards’s career is discussed in Linda S. Ferber and William H. Gerdts, The New Path: Ruskin and the American Pre-Raphaelites [exh. cat.] (New York: The Brooklyn Museum, 1985), pp. 214–28.

2. Linda S. Ferber, William Trost Richards: American Landscape and Marine Painter, 1833–1905 [exh. cat.] (New York: The Brooklyn Museum, 1973), p. 31.

3. Another of Richards’s New Jersey beach scenes is Brigantine Beach (undated), which was acquired by the Union League of Philadelphia in 1884; see Maxwell Whiteman, Paintings and Sculpture at The Union League of Philadelphia (Philadelphia: The Union League, 1978), p. 35.

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