Frederick De Bourg Richards (1822-1903), Atlantic City
Frederick De Bourg Richards (1822-1903)
Oil on canvas
Canvas size: 18" x 36"
Frame size: 26 3/4" x 44 3/4"
Signed and dated l.l.: FDeB. Richards/ 81
Provenance: Schwarz, Philadelphia Literature: Philadelphia Collection 75, plate 17.
By 1880 Atlantic City had become an even greater tourist destination following the fare war between the Camden and Atlantic Railroad and the new Philadelphia and Atlantic Railroad. Artists, such as Frederick De Bourg Richards, eager to capture the growth of ever-changing appearance of the boardwalk, as well as to attract the attention of new patrons, painted evocative scenes of the beachfront. Sometime during the late 1870s Richards took a studio in Anglesea (renamed North Wildwood in 1906). Between 1883 and 1889 he exhibited a number of paintings, etchings, and watercolors of that area and Hereford Inlet at the Pennsylvania Academy. His first documented paining of a New Jersey landscape was Salt Marshes at Atlantic City in October (location unknown), which was exhibited at the Pennsylvania Academy's annual show in 1878.
In this beautifully composed painting, the eye of the viewer is drawn towards the distant Atlantic City by the curve of the beach, flanked on either side by the gently rolling waves of the sea to the right and sand dunes to the left. The sky, with its restful clouds, in hues of pink, is almost the main focus of the painting, filling two-thirds of the composition and providing a feeling of tranquility. The two figures wandering along the beach add a sense of depth and scale to the overall landscape.
The photographer and landscape painter Frederick De Bourg Richards was born in Wilmington, Delaware. Although little is known of his early training, he may have worked as an artist in New York between 1844 and 1845 before settling in Philadelphia by 1848. Richards opened a daguerreotype gallery at 144 1/2 Chestnut Street, opposite Independence Hall and the gallery remained in operation until 1855. His "life-size" daguerreotypes were particularly noted and Richards' account book indicates that he sold photographs to such prominent Philadelphia artists as James Hamilton, William Trost Richards, Peter F. Rothermel, and others. In 1853 he began to take photographs that documented the appearance of Philadelphia's historic buildings.
Richards traveled extensively throughout Europe during the middle 1850s completing commissioned paintings of the Swiss Alps and Italian countryside. He published many of these views in 1857 under the title, Random Sketches, or, What I Saw in Europe (Philadelphia: G. Collins). His experiences painting in Europe clearly had a profound effect upon the artist and he devoted himself to painting landscapes, most of which were of the Pennsylvania countryside and the New Jersey seashore, from 1865 onwards. Between 1848 and 1891, he exhibited regularly at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts. The painter's work was also shown at the National Academy of Design from 1865 to 1876, and the Brooklyn Art Association in 1875 and 1876. Frederick De Bourg Richards was also active in the Artists' Fund Society, the Philadelphia Society of Artists, the Art Club of Philadelphia, and the American Art Union in New York.
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