William Blake Richmond

William Blake Richmond

William Blake Richmond (1842-1921) was a painter from the United Kingdom whose portraits and mosaics in London’s St. Paul’s Cathedral are well renowned.

William Blake Richmond Summary:

  • His father was also a successful artist who specialized in miniatures.
  • Richmond also dabbled in sculpture, stained glass, and mosaics.
  • His visit to Italy to see the works of the masters had a grand effect on his development as an artist.
  • He became a professor at Oxford University in England.
  • He also taught painting at the Royal Academy of Arts.

William Blake Richmond Famous Paintings:

William Blake Richmond (1842—1921) was an eminent English painter of the Arts and Crafts Movement. He is most known for his decorative mosaics at St Paul’s Cathedral.

The future Sir William was born the son of George Richmond, a successful English painter. He was named after William Blake, a friend of his father’s. In his teens, he also enjoyed the privilege of being trained by John Ruskin, of attending the Royal Academy of Art, and of visiting Italy as part of his artistic studies.

In 1861, at only nineteen years of age, Richmond had a successful exhibition at the Royal Academy and soon began receiving professional commissions. That same year he was also made a member of the Royal Academy. After the interruption of 1877, Richmond would return to being patronized by the Academy in 1888.

Thereafter he would acquire over time a series of academic titles, culminating in “Senior Royal Academician” in 1920.

Following another period of study and work in Rome, Richmond began exhibiting, in 1877, at the Grosvenor Gallery. He also succeeded his master Ruskin as Slade Professor of Fine Art at Oxford, where he lectured occasionally for five years and left after a disagreement with Ruskin over Michelangelo.

From 1891 to 1904, Richmond worked on the project for which he is today best known. This is the mosaic decoration in the quire and apse at St Paul’s Cathedral. Having lectured on the subject for years, Richmond applied his taste for Byzantine and Early-Church mosaics to the most eminent Protestant cathedral.

The refulgent colors and stark shapes in which his series of over seventy allegories was told sparked a vigorous public debate in London. For some, he had brought an exuberant art style to a temple belonging to the tradition which was supposed to studiously avoid ostentation.

In any case, Richmond’s accomplishment became an immediate object of study. The effect on the hallowed edifice representing the Church of England and its monarchy was truly innovative.

Richmond’s project was an imposing sight, one that had made use of an innovative palette especially designed by the glassmaker Harry James Powell. Even before concluding his work at St Paul’s, but especially afterward, Richmond did not lack invitations to come and redo the glass at churches all over the country. A second significant project of his in London was at the Holy Trinity Church in Sloane Street.

As well as in his personal studies of Byzantine art and his love of the most colorful Italian masters (e.g. Tintoretto and Giotto), it should be noted that the idea for the mosaics at St Paul’s came also from the set of ideas known as the Arts and Crafts Movement. It represented a desire to enrich all of the modern arts with colors and decorations while making use of traditional styles and techniques.

He is also noted for being the founder of the Coal Smoke Abatement Society in 1898 (today Environmental Protection UK) intended to resist the high emission of fumes from industries in London.

William Richmond was also a sculptor. In 1906, he finished a monument to Prime Minister Gladstone and his wife at St Deiniol’s Church in Hawarden, in Wales. In traditionalist fashion, it represents the pair lying together in bed.

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