28 May 2012

Who Was Ferdinand Richardt?

Brief Biography

Ferdinand Richardt was a highly prolific artist of landscape and architectural subjects who worked in Denmark and America, and to a lesser extent in Sweden and Canada. In Denmark, he is principally known for producing 240 lithographs illustrating the country's manor houses (the first such comprehensive record of Denmark's built environment). In America, his legacy rests largely on his many paintings of Niagara Falls. Richardt visited America between 1855 and 1859, and then after some fifteen years back in Denmark, he emigrated to the New World. 

Ferdinand Richardt, about 1873. (Royal Danish Library)
During his American sojourn, Richardt produced over 100 canvases of Niagara Falls, the Mississippi River, Mammoth Cave, Philadelphia, Mount Vernon, and other cities, landscapes, and tourist destinations.

By 1860, Richardt was back in Copenhagen exhibiting his American works and capturing Denmark's characteristic scenery. He produced two more collections of architectural  lithographs--depicting manor houses near Stockholm and in southern Sweden--during this decade, as well as many paintings of urban Copenhagen, castles, and manor houses.

In 1873, he emigrated with his family to the United States. During his final 20 years in the San Francisco Bay Area, Richardt specialized in marine views the majestic redwood groves north and south of the city, even then being destroyed by lumber companies. Several fine Richardt canvases of Yosemite valley are known, although most of his travels were closer to home. In 1876, he moved to Oakland, but he maintained an active exhibition and 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 Fine Arts Academy (1874, 1875, 1876), and at the Mechanics' Institute and the San Francisco Art Association during the 1870s and 1880s. In America, his works are held today by the White House, Metropolitan Museum of Art, Smithsonian Institution, Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco, Oakland Museum of California, U.S. Department of State, and other museums and private collections. In Denmark, his works are found in the Danish National Gallery, Nationalmuseet, Thorvaldsens Museum, Frederiksborg Castle, and in many other collections, both public and private.

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