Samuel Richards was born in Owen County, Indiana and received his rudimentary art education and early employment in the Indianapolis photography studio of Theobald Leitz. While there he produced portraits that combined photography, drawing and painting. Such works satisfied the local patrons and were popular at that time. Richards, however, found the work distasteful and left to open his own portrait painting studio in Franklin, Indiana. He married and moved to Anderson, Indiana where he found employment as a newspaper illustrator. To enable him to travel abroad to pursue an academic art education, Richards raised money among his patrons in Anderson on the promise of repayment in pictures. Richards traveled to Munich, Germany to attend the Royal Academy where he would learn to draw and paint portraits and figure studies using local models. Richards copied Old Master Paintings in Munich’s Alte Pinakothek to send back to his Indiana patrons. While in Europe Richards contracted tuberculosis and was forced to return to the United States, where he took up residence in Colorado. His career was cut short when he died of his illness at the age of forty-three.
At the Royal Academy, Professor von Löfftz’s perfectionism was legendary. Emphasizing the dark tonalities of the Old Dutch Masters, he demanded that his students restrict their palettes to carefully modulated browns, ochres, grays, and off-whites with the intention of reigning in impulses toward harsh local colors. His policy of reducing color to a narrow range of harmonies drove the more impulsive students to distraction. A Swiss artist complained: “In my study of that woman I was well on my way to losing the color altogether as I continually tried to subdue the tone toward gray.” Such struggles are evident in Richards’s portraits with their emphasis on dark tonalities devoid of high key color.
Martin Krause. The Passage: Return of Indiana Painters from Germany, 1880-1905, Indiana: Indianapolis Museum of Art in cooperation with Indiana University Press, 1991. ISBN: 0-036260-52
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