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.
The course of study in the Technical Painting Class at the Royal Academy in Munich consisted of rigorous instruction in the painting of heads, followed by full figure work. This procedure continued the teaching methods begun in the drawing classes, where the major portion of the day was spent rendering portrait studies of elderly peasant types. Using the masters of Dutch 17th-century portraiture, Rembrandt and Hals, as prototypes, Löfftz had his students restrict the basic harmony of their paintings to soft, shadowy grays, relieved only by sharp details in the highlights. Here the contours of the man’s white shirt stand out against the dark tonalities and ease the severity of the composition.
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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