George Richmond RA Victorian Watercolour Portrait Old Lady


Artist: George Richmond RA (1809-1896)
Subject: Old Lady
Medium: Watercolour and Bodycolour on Paper
Date: 1849

George Richmond was born in Brompton, then a small village, now a part of the Royal Borough of Kensington. He was a descendant of the miniaturist George Engleheart and by the age of twelve had become a sophisticated draughtsman, something aided by his frequent visits to the British Museum, where he sketched from its growing collection of antique sculpture.

He attended the RA Schools in 1824, studying under Henry Fuseli (1741-1825). Joseph Severn (1793-1879), who had attended Keats in his dying days, was one of his classmates, as was Samuel Palmer (1805-1881).

He was introduced to William Blake at the same time, whose speech he likened to the Prophet Isaiah. He witnessed his death on the 12th August 1827, closing his eyes for the last time and recounting to Samuel Palmer how: “his countenance became fair—his eyes brightened and he burst out singing of the things he saw in Heaven…”

The portrait displays a little of Richmond's preference for landscapes, which he rarely managed to paint. Portraits consumed most of his energy. He produced 100 of them in 1847. During his early years with The Ancients at Shoreham, he lived on 10 shillings a week. Less than a decade later he was earning as much as £1000 from portrait commissions. The situation throws to mind, Blake’s prophetic warning:

“If he who is organized by the divine for spiritual communion, refuse and bury his talent in the earth, even though he should want natural bread, shame and confusion of face will pursue him throughout life to eternity.

Raymond Lister (1919-2001), a leading authority on Samuel Palmer, describes Richmond’s “neurotic inner struggle”, which in turn “lead to illness and depression.”

Size (Frame): 73 x 62.5 x 3cm
Size (Image): 47 x 36.5cm
Weight: 4.2kg