William Trost Richards, one of America’s foremost landscape and marine painters (and father of American Impressionist Anna Richards Brewster), had a patron named George Whitney, who lived near him in Philadelphia and supported him not only by purchasing his works on a regular basis, but by helping to finance Richards’ travels.
While traveling and painting, Richards would send back to Whitney small watercolors, most roughly 3 x 5 inches (7.6 x 12.7cm), which he called “coupons”, partly as a thank you and partly as examples of compositions from which Whitney would choose selections for Richards to later develop into larger oils.
Most of Whitney’s collection of Richard’s work was split up after his death, but the majority of the “coupon” watercolors were kept together and were recently donated to the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts.
The collection is on display there in a special exhibition curated in collaboration with the Newport Art Museum, Rhode Island titled A Mine of Beauty: Landscapes by William Trost Richards. The exhibition runs until this Sunday, December 30, 2012.
The small watercolors are accompanied by larger watercolors and oils both from the Academy’s permanent collection and loans from other Philadelphia collections.
Though there is no special gallery for the exhibition on the Academy’s website, a search of their collection for Richards and watercolors online will include all of the “coupon” watercolors as well as larger watercolors.
The beautiful small watercolors, I’m happy to say, are actually shown in images that are a bit lager than life size.