Sir   William   Blake   Richmond   K.C.B., R.A.

(29 November 1842 - 11 February 1921)

Portrait painter and designer of stained glass and mosaic, whose works include mosaic decorations below the dome and in the apse of St Paul's cathedral in London. He was the Slade Professor of Fine Art at the University of Oxford from 1879 to 1883.

William Blake Richmond was born in 1842, in London. His father, George Richmond, R.A. (1809-1896), himself the son of Thomas Richmond (1771-1837), painted the portraits of the most eminent people of his day and played a part in society. He was named after the artist William Blake (1757-1827), close friend of his father, George Richmond (1809-1896).

William received some coaching from Ruskin. In 1857, at the age of fourteen, he entered the Royal Academy schools, where he studied for about three years. A visit to Italy in 1859, gave him opportunity for studying the works of old masters and had an effect on his development. His first Academy picture was a portrait group (1861); and to this succeeded, during the next three years, several other pictures of the same class.

In 1864, Richmond's first wife died. The following year he returned to Italy, where he remained for four years, chiefly at Rome. During this time he met Frederic Leighton and the landscapist, Giovanni Costa; both of whom he admired. He painted the large canvas, "A Procession in Honor of Bacchus," which he exhibited at the Royal Academy in 1869, when he came back to Britain.

In 1878, Richmond became Slade professor at Oxford University, succeeding Ruskin; but he resigned three years later.

Richmond's picture, "An Audience at Athens" (Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery), was exhibited at the Grosvenor Gallery, London in 1885. He was elected an Associate of the Royal Academy in 1888, and Royal Academician in 1895. He received the degree of D.C.L. (Honorary Doctorate) in 1896, and a knighthood of the Order of the Bath in 1897, and became professor of painting to the Royal Academy.

Although he was a successful portrait-painter, Richmond wished to paint large, allegoric works, and this led him to take an interest in the design of stained glass and mosaic. He was elected to the Art Workers Guild in 1884, and became its Master in 1891. In decorative art his most conspicuous achievement was the internal decoration and the glass mosaics covering the spandrels and choir of St. Paul's Cathedral, London. A sequence of three large windows designed by Richmond, the earliest (1904) redesigned and remade when the second and third were added in 1910, can be seen in the Lady Chapel of Holy Trinity Sloane Street, London.

Richmond also took a keen interest in social questions, particularly in smoke-prevention in London.

He was the father of Admiral Sir Herbert Richmond (1871-1946), a naval historian, and of Ernest Richmond (1874-1955), an architect. Encyclopædia Britannica, (1911)

Sir William Blake Richmond, the noted painter, died in London, February 11 last. He was born in 1842, was Slade professor at Oxford for several years and president of the Society of Miniature Painters in 1899. He was the son of the late George Richmond, A.R.A.; was awarded two silver medals by the Royal Academy, when a student in 1857. He spent two years traveling and painting in Italy and returned to that country in 1865, to study sculpture, architecture, fresco, and tempera painting in Rome. He spent several years in similar work in Egypt and Greece. Mythology and classic history provided him with subjects of some of his best known works, which in clude "Prometheus Bound" and "Ariadne Deserted by Theseus." One of his most striking achievements, outside of his portrait work, was the mosaic decoration of St. Paul's Cathedral.

American Art News, Februaryy 19, 1921.

Sir William Blake Richmond []

External Links:
The Life and Work of Sir William B. Richmond, R.A., K.C.B., by Helen Lascelles, Art Journal Office, 1903.

View painter's work: Sir William Blake Richmond (1842-1921) [new window view]