Ferdinand Richardt was born in Denmark in 1819 where he studied art at the Royal Academy and became an established artist with wealthy patrons including the King of Denmark, the Russian Czar, and British royalty. He produced over 240 lithographs of Danish and Swedish manor houses which were very popular among the upper class gentry. In 1855 Richardt traveled to America to do a commissioned painting of Niagara Falls for William Vanderbilt. He was paid $14,000 for this painting, a huge sum at the time, and stayed for four years producing over 100 paintings of Niagara Falls and other landscapes of popular tourist sites. Tourism was becoming popular in America and Richardt was attracted to the great scenic sites and the people who gathered at the growing number of tourist resorts. Many of Richardt’s works record in detail the people at scenic sites and in cityscapes and architectural studies (White Mountain Art & Artists).
His American paintings were well received when he returned to Denmark in 1860. He married, produced many cityscapes, architectural studies, and landscapes and traveled to Italy and England. At the invitation of Queen Victoria, his works were shown in Windsor Castle. In 1873 he and his family immigrated to the United States, living for a short while at Niagara Falls before arriving in San Francisco in 1873.
While he is most famous for his paintings of Niagara Falls, after moving to the West Coast he specialized in seascapes, marine subjects, still life, cityscapes, and landscapes of redwood groves and Yosemite. Whiles less well known than his lithographs and paintings, his drawings of early European architecture and pre-Civil War America are both technically superb and invaluable historical documentation. In 1876 he moved to Oakland and privately taught art on both sides of the Bay through the 1880s while exhibiting his work at the Mechanic’s Institute and the San Francisco Art Association.
By the time Richardt arrived in San Francisco, the city had grown beyond its frontier beginnings. Richardt saw San Francisco in the same romantic way he depicted the great European cities. A San Francisco art critic in 1876 remarked on Richardt’s painting San Francisco by Moonlight that it radiated a “charm… like that which invests the night in Genoa or Naples” (Harrison:22). This painting, now in the collection of the Pioneer Society, was cut from its frame with the signature cut away as it was hurriedly rescued from the 1906 earthquake and fire. It has been considered the most important surviving artistic depiction of pre-earthquake San Francisco.
AskArt – Art Appraisals, Art Value. Action Prices, Art Database. www.askart.com
Harrison, Alfred, Jr. 2010. Catalog: “Discoveries in California Paintings VII.” San Francisco: The North Point Gallery.
Hughes, Edan Milton. 2002. Artists in California 1786-1940. Third Edition. Sacramento: Crocker Art Museum.
White Mountain Art & Artists, www.whitemountainart.com/Biographies