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 carefully delineated facial features of this model are in stark contrast to the loose, animated strokes that define his hair and clothes. Richard’s free handling of the paint makes it difficult to differentiate between the man’s attire and his long flowing beard. While the model’s face exemplifies the perfect outline found in the work of German Renaissance artist Albrecht Dűrer, the rest of the canvas exhibits the influence of the bravura brushwork associated with the 17th-century Dutch painter Franz Hals. These seemingly opposing influences combined to form the dominant style of the Royal Academy know as Munich realism.
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