Ferdinand Richard was born in Denmark and studied at the Royal Art Academy in Copenhagen. He received support from the Crown to paint Danish landscapes, and a number of his paintings entered the royal collections. His lithographs of Danish and Swedish manor houses began appearing in 1844 and were published until 1870, by which time his works had also been bought by Queen Victoria and the Russian Czar. A sojourn in America (1855-1859), reputedly at the invitation of William Vanderbilt who may have paid him $14,000 to paint Niagara Falls, allowed Richardt to produce over 100 diverse landscapes of subjects in this country. The collection included at least two canvases of the Mount Washington area -- Summit House and the Glen House -- both sketched on his visit there in 1857. The Summit House painting has dozens of people atop the peak, standing on the house itself, and ascending toward Mount Washington on horseback.
Richardt was impressed by the grandiose hotels he encountered at the tourist sites in America. The hotels served as elegant architectural settings for the human gatherings he enjoyed painting, where the elite classes paraded their finery and made important social connections. Several hotel paintings were included in his 1859 exhibtion held at the National Academy of Design, and others are now known. Most of these paintings were set within panoramic mountain landscapes.
By 1860 Richardt was back in Copenhagen displaying his American “prospects” to the Danish public. During the next decade he married, exhibited annually at Denmark’s Charlottenborg salon, and traveled to Italy and England. In 1873, he immigrated with his family to the United States, stopping at Niagara, and arriving in San Francisco in 1875. On the West Coast he specialized in Bay Area marine and city views, as well as dramatic accounts of the redwood groves, so characteristic of that region. Several fine canvases of Yosemite valley are known. In 1876 he moved to Oakland and maintained a vigorous teaching schedule on both sides of the Bay through the 1880s.
In this country Richardt exhibited at New York’s Stuyvesant Institute (1857) and the National Academy of Design (1859), at the Buffalo Academy of Arts (1874), and at the Mechanic’s Institute and the San Francisco Art Association during the 1870s and 1880s. His works are held today by the White House, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco, the Oakland Museum of California, the U.S. Department of State, and many other American museums and private collections. His works are also held by Denmark’s National Gallery of Art, Thorvaldsens Museum, Frederiksborg Castle, and elsewhere.
Danish Manor Houses and America: Landscape Art of Ferdinand Richardt (1819-1895)
Richardt photograph courtesy of Melinda Young Stuart and the Royal Danish Library
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