The Corresponence of James McNeil Whistler
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William Blake Richmond, 1842-1921

Nationality: English
Date of Birth: 1842.01.29
Place of Birth: London
Date of Death: 1921.02.11
Place of Death: Beavor Lodge, Hammersmith, London


William Blake Richmond, a history, portrait and landscape painter, sculptor, medalist and designer, belonged to an English family of artists. He was the son of the painter and engraver George Richmond, and Julia Richmond, the daughter of the architect Charles Heathcote Tatham. He was one of fifteen children, only ten of whom survived into childhood. His grandfather was the miniaturist Thomas Richmond and his uncle the portrait painter and miniaturist Thomas Richmond (jnr). He married Clara Jane Richards who died in 1864. He remarried.


Richmond studied under John Ruskin and at the Royal Academy Schools. He became a successful portrait painter, his sitters including Robert Browning, Walter Pater, Charles Darwin and Otto Fürst von Bismarck. In Italy he came under the influence of Frederic Leighton and Giovanni Costa and aspired to become a great neoclassical painter. He is most famous for his mosaic decoration of the choir, sanctuary and ambulatory of St Paul's Cathedral (1891-1907). He also designed and sculpted the monument to William Gladstone (1898) in Hawarden church, Clwyd.

Richmond was elected an associate of Royal Academy in 1888, becoming a full member in 1895. He exhibited in London not only at the Royal Academy from 1861, but also at the Royal Miniature Society, British Institution, Bailey Gallery, Fine Art Society, Grosvenor Gallery, New Gallery and Society of British Artists, a society which appointed JW its President in 1886 and made Richmond an honorary member in 1898, that is after JW's enforced resignation. He acted as President of the Royal Miniature Society from 1899 to 1907.

In January 1888 James Rennell Rodd wrote to JW urging him to visit, telling him that Richmond had recently painted Bismarck and JW could do likewise (#05207). JW's references to Richmond in his letters appear to be sarcastic in tone. In April 1891 he declared to William Ernest Henley that the National Observer article on Richmond was 'a masterpiece' (#10562), and in a letter dated March 1893 to David Croal Thomson he described Richmond as 'amazing' (#08238).


Lascelles, Helen, The Life and Work of Sir W. B. Richmond, London, 1912; Wood, Christopher, Dictionary of Victorian Painters, Woodbridge, 1971; Johnson, J., and A. Gruetzner, Dictionary of British Artists 1880-1940, Woodbridge, 1980; Lister, George Raymond, George Richmond: A Critical Biography, London, 1981; Brown, David Blayney, 'William Blake Richmond', The Grove Dictionary of Art Online, ed. L. Macy, (accessed 5 March 2003).