American painter William Trost Richards, known for his seascapes and landscapes, was also a fantastic watercolorist. While traveling abroad in the late 19th century, he sent a series of small watercolors of his travels back to a patron, George Whitney, who was sponsoring his travels and looking to review scenes for possible larger commissions in oil.
Richards and Whitney called them “coupons”, a joking reference to the idea that they were a kind of promissory note against future work that Richards would do in return for Whitney’s support of his travels. They were somehow largely kept together after Whitney’s death, and in 2012 the collector in possession of them, Dorrance Hamilton, donated them to the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts.
The watercolors were put on display in 2012 (my review here), but, like most works on paper, they are not ordinarily on view.
There is another rare chance to see them now, as the Academy has an “Encore” showing of them. If you can go, get there early enough to let your eyes acclimate to the dimmed light in the gallery. They are in the Furness building with the permanent collection.
These watercolors are astonishingly beautiful, and only slightly more amazing given their small size — most are roughly the size of a postcard. Many were painted in England, along the coast and in London.
For those who can’t get to the show, or would like a preview, you can view them online on PAFA’s website. There isn’t an online gallery specifically for them, but you can go to the Search the Collection page and enter “Richards” for the artist’s last name and “watercolor” for the keyword. That will turn up a few other of Richard’s watercolors, but most will be from this set.
Hopefully, this link will work for you.
Encore Presentation Of A Mine Of Beauty: Landscapes By William Trost Richards will be on view at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts in Philadelphia until July 30, 2017.
For more, see my post from 2012 on A Mine of Beauty: Landscapes by William Trost Richards.
There is a nicely done book of the collection, A Mine of Beauty: Landscapes by William Trost Richards, that reproduces these small paintings pretty much at their original size.