This month, the Newport Art Museum opened A Mine of Beauty: Landscapes by William Trost Richards. The exhibition features a collection of 110 postcard-sized paintings by William Trost Richards, a mid-nineteenth-century artist famous for his marine and landscape paintings.
Richards spent his time in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, and Newport, Connecticut. Both places served to inspire and advance his artwork, but it was in Philadelphia where Richards met the prominent collector George Whitney. Whitney first collected Richards’s works in the 1860s, and he soon became Richards’s friend and patron. Whitney funded several of Richards’s travels abroad and was an energetic advocate for Richards’s work. Richards painted the miniature watercolor landscapes (or coupons, as he referred to them) as gifts to Whitney. The paintings were often included in Richards’s correspondence with Whitney and depict the pastures and rocky coastlines of New England as well as scenes from the artist’s travels to Scotland, England, and Italy.
When Whitney died in 1885, his estate was sold, and his collection of Richards’s finest paintings—eighty-seven in all—were forcibly dispersed. Only Whitney’s collection of the small watercolors remained together. Remarkably, these paintings recently found their way back to Philadelphia to the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts (PAFA). Mirroring Richards’s life, these paintings will also travel between PAFA and the Newport Art Museum.
Marquand Books produced the 156-page catalogue, designed by Zach Hooker. The book’s tactile qualities—with embossed case stamping and an imprinted image on the cover—evoke the texture and intimate details of the paintings themselves. The entire collection of miniatures is featured in the catalogue. These watercolors, reproduced on a one-to-one scale, reveal the grace and sensibility of Richards’s artistic skill, and essays by Linda S. Ferber and Anna O. Marley illuminate the history of American landscape painting that surrounds these jewellike miniatures.
photography by Jeremy Linden