Seascape with Distant Lighthouse, Atlantic City, New Jersey

William Trost Richards

Marina con faro, Atlantic City, New Jersey

Richards, William Trost

Filadelfia, 1833 - Newport, 1905

Seascape with Distant Lighthouse, Atlantic City, New Jersey, 1873

© Colección Carmen Thyssen-Bornemisza

Signed and dated lower left: ''Wm T. Richards 1873''
Carmen Thyssen-Bornemisza Collection on loan to the Thyssen-Bornemisza Museum

Oil on canvas

29,9 x 50,8 cm

CTB.1981.58

Artwork history

  • Private Collection, Washington (DC).

  • Art Market, New York.

  • Ira Spanierman, Inc., New York, 1981.

  • Thyssen-Bornemisza Collection, Lugano, 1981.

  • Carmen Thyssen-Bornemisza Collection.

1982 - 1983

Nineteenth-Century American Landscape Painting: Selections from the Thyssen-Bornemisza Collection, Houston (TX), Museum of Fine Arts; Oklahoma City (OK), Oklahoma Art Center; Omaha (NE), Joslyn Art Museum, nº 38, p. 90.

1983

Maestri Americani della Collezione Thyssen-Bornemisza, Vatican City, Musei Vaticani, nº 25.

1984

Maestri Americani della Collezione Thyssen-Bornemisza, Lugano, Villa Malpensata, nº 24.

1984 - 1986

American Masters: The Thyssen-Bornemisza Collection, Baltimore (MD), The Baltimore Museum of Art; Detroit (MI), The Detroit Institute of Arts; Denver (CO), Denver Art Museum; San Antonio (TX), Marion Koogler McNay Art Institute; New York (NY), IBM Gallery of Arts and Sciences; San Diego (CA), San Diego Museum of Art; Palm Beach (FL), The Society of the Four Arts, nº 26.

1996

De Canaletto a Kandinsky. Obras maestras de la Colección Carmen Thyssen-Bornemisza, Madrid, Museo Thyssen-Bornemisza, . (This work is not listed in the catalogue).

1996 - 1997

From Zurbaran to Picasso. Masterpieces from the Collection of Carmen Thyssen-Bornemisza, Shanghai, Shanghai Museum; Beijing, China National Art Gallery, p. 94.

1997

Capolavori dalla Collezione di Carmen Thyssen-Bornemisza: 60º anniversario dell'apertura della Pinacotecca di Villa Favorita, Lugano, Villa Favorita, nº 63, p. 170.

1999

Aspectos de la tradición paisajística en la Colección Carmen Thyssen-Bornemisza, Málaga, Salas de Exposiciones del Palacio Episcopal, nº 54, p. 178.

1999 - 2000

Naturalezas pintadas de Brueghel a Van Gogh. Pintura naturalista en la Colección Carmen Thyssen-Bornemisza, Madrid, Museo Thyssen-Bornemisza, nº 39, p. 122.

2012

Paisatges de llum, paisatges de somni. De Gauguin a Delvaux. Col·lecció Carmen Thyssen-Bornemisza, Sant Feliu de Guíxols, Espai Carmen Thyssen, p. 70, illus. p. 71.

  • -Warren, David B.: Nineteenth-Century American Landscape Painting: Selections from the Thyssen-Bornemisza Collection. [Exhib. Cat. Houston, Museum of Fine Arts – Omaha, Joslyn Museum of Art, 1982-1983]. Houston, The Museum of Fine Arts, 1982 , p. 90 [Sheet by Warren].

  • -Novak, Barbara: Nineteenth-Century American Painting: The Thyssen-Bornemisza Collection. Ellis, Elizabeth Garrity… [et al.]. London, Sotheby´s Publications, 1986 , nº 43, pp. 158-159, illus. [Sheet by Manthorne].

  • -Storm Nagy, E.: Europa e America. Dipinti e acquerelli dell’ Ottocento e del Novecento dalla Collezione Thyssen-Bornemisza. Guida delle opere esposte. Milan, 1993, nº 39, p. 60, illus.

  • -From Zurbaran to Picasso. Masterpieces from the Collection of Carmen Thyssen-Bornemisza, Shanghai, Shanghai Museum; Pekín, China National Art Gallery, [Exhib. Cat. China], 1996, p. 94.

  • -Capolavori dalla Collezione di Carmen Thyssen-Bornemisza: 60º anniversario dell’apertura della Pinacotecca di Villa Favorita, Lugano, Villa Favorita, [Exhib. Cat. Villa Favorita, Lugano], 1997, n. 63, p. 170.

  • -Aspectos de la tradición paisajística en la Colección Carmen Thyssen-Bornemisza, Málaga, Salas de Exposiciones del Palacio Episcopal, [Exhib. Cat. Palacio Episcopal, Málaga], 1999, n. 54, p. 178.

  • -Naturalezas pintadas de Brueghel a Van Gogh. Pintura naturalista en la Colección Carmen Thyssen-Bornemisza, Madrid, Museo Thyssen-Bornemisza, [Exhib. Cat. Museo Thyssen-Bornemisza, Madrid], 1999, n. 39, p. 122.

  • -Colección Carmen Thyssen-Bornemisza. Arnaldo, Javier (ed.). 2 vols. Madrid, Fundación Colección Thyssen-Bornemisza, 2004, vol. 1, p. 286, illus. p. 287 [Sheet by Katherine E. Manthorne].

  • -Paisatges de llum, paisatges de somni. De Gauguin a Delvaux. Col·lecció Carmen Thyssen-Bornemisza, Sant Feliu de Guíxols, Espai Carmen Thyssen, [Cat. Exp. Espai Carmen Thyssen], 2012, p. 70, lám. p. 71.[Sheet by Katherine E. Manthorne]

Expert report

William Trost Richards first established his reputation as a painter of wooded landscapes in the style of his early teacher Paul Weber. By 1858 he began a study of Pre-Raphaelitism, at first probably on his own and subsequently in conjunction with a group of painters in New York City who had begun to follow the work of the English Pre-Raphaelite movement and the writings of John Ruskin. In 1863 the Association for the Advancement of Truth in Art was formed, which included Richards as a member. They met as a group only a few times, but the movement was sustained by the publication of their journal New Path (published May 1863 to December 1865). Its most enduring legacy, however, was the pictures they produced, which gave visual form to Ruskin’s insistence on “truth to nature” in their near-photographic accuracy and topographical correctness. Critical responses to Richards’s work in this vein were mixed; initially they found the minute accuracy impressive, but over time they began to question a literalness that bordered on imitative.

In the 1870s the coast and the sea became his new themes. Seascape with Distant Lighthouse, Atlantic City, New Jersey is an early manifestation of this love of the ocean. The similarity in conception and painterly touch between this work and James Hamilton’s contemporaneous Beach at Atlantic City (Private Collection) suggest that they may have sketched together along the Jersey shore, and underscores the enduring importance for Richards of the art traditions of his native Philadelphia. Around this time also he began to experiment with other techniques, especially watercolour, and joined the American Watercolor Society in 1874. Work in this medium may have encouraged his observation of the fleeting effects of light on the water, and the breaking waves, and thus led to a loosening of his stroke. In this canvas, for example, a range of brushwork is evident, from the carefully finished passages in the open water to the more painterly treatment of the cresting waves.

Seascape with Distant Lighthouse is organised around tautly drawn and measured underpinnings. All of the seascape elements -the horizon line, the frothy wave at the sand’s edge, and lines of breaking waves further off shore- seem to converge upon a single vanishing point at the left, marked by the lighthouse. This deliberate linear arrangement focuses the viewer’s attention on the distant form which can be identified as Absecon Light still standing in Atlantic City. Its distinctive red and white bands were painted in 1872, the year before the picture, in order to increase its effectiveness as a day-mark. The structure is of some historic importance, built in 1854 in what was then a lonely seacoast village called by the Indian name Absegame and one of the popular lights along the Eastern seaboard.

The marines Richards first began to paint in earnest in the 1870s preoccupied him for the remainder of his career. A trip to Great Britain from 1878 to 1880 afforded the opportunity to tour its changing coastline from England and the west of Ireland to the Channel Islands, where the scenery was recorded for future works. By 1881 he had returned to the United States and begun construction of Graycliff, his new house in Newport, Rhode Island. He could then observe from the windows of his own home the sea in its ever-changing moods: his unfailing source of artistic inspiration.

Katherine E. Manthorne