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Rocky Coastline, Cornwall

William Trost Richards

Rocky Coastline, Cornwall, 1886

Oil on Canvas

89-P-362

Purchased with funds provided by Alexis C. Manice 

Richards attended Philadelphia’s Central High, but left school to help support his family after his father’s death. He worked as a designer and illustrator of ornamental metal work from 1850 to 1858 and simultaneously began to study and paint professionally. He first exhibited at the Philadelphia Academy of Fine Arts in 1852 and later became a Member of the Society for the Advancement of Truth in Art, an American Pre-Raphaelite organization, and the National Academy of Design. 

His interest in geological subjects coincided with his reading of John Ruskin’s Modern Painters (1843-46) in the 1850s, and, from 1868 on he specialized in coastal scenes, such as Rocky Coastline, Cornwall. Richards was concerned with capturing natural light and reflections, but his handling was tighter and his palette more tonal than that of the Impressionists. 

Condition of the Artwork (2009): 

The lining appears to have repaired old tears. There was a 3”w horizontal tear in the upper left sky where the fill material is curling forward slightly. There was a 4”w horizontal tear in the crashing wave at lower right which appears to be well mended. White blotches on the canvas reverse appear to be old, inactive, mold growth. No vacuum was available to reduce/ remove the mold. The old stretcher has been overextended by excessive keying out; it has a somewhat warped appearance from the reverse but appears to be stable at this time. There is fine, small scale, slightly cupped age cracking overall. 

Ultra violet light reveals multiple, large blotches of repaint in the sky and few in the water. Some blotches or repaint appear to be excessive, covering original paint. Some smaller repaint strokes appear to cover abrasions to the paint layer in the sky. There are some broad strokes of repaint in the curling wave that appear to be beneath varnish layers that glow under ultra violet light. The formerly torn areas have been repainted and inpainted. There are several spots of old repaint around the repaired tear at right. Natural resin varnish layers have turned slightly brown with age. The painting has been unevenly cleaned in the past; ultra violet light reveals more build up of varnish in the water. Close inspection reveal residues of old grime and varnish that have been left in paint interstices; this is readily visible in the sky, water highlights and pale cliffs. 

Conservation Treatment Proposed: 

  • Remove /reduce the discolored varnish.
  • Remove/reduce old repaints with the appropriate cleaning agents.
  • Remove/reduce any residues of old grime and varnish embedded in paint interstices.
  • Apply an isolating layer of a conservation quality varnish overall.
  • Fill and inpaint paint losses and abrasions with conservation quality materials.
  • Apply a conservation quality finish varnish overall.

Estimated Cost of Treatment:  $4,000.00