The work: Venus and Anchises. Venus (Greek: Aphrodite), was the Roman goddess of beauty and love and considered as either sprung from the foam of the sea, or the daughter of Jupiter and Dione. Her husband was Vulcan but she had amours with other gods and demigods, including the shepherd Anchises, whom they had a son Aeneas. The Romans believed that they were descended from Aeneas, and therefore Venus was venerated as a guardian of the Roman people. Her chief festival is 1 April.
The Artist: English portrait painter and sculptor Sir William Blake Richmond was also the designer of stained glass and mosaic. He is best known for his portrait work and decorative mosaics in St Paul’s Cathedral in London. Richmond was born on 29 November 1842 in Marylebone and was named after a close friend of his father, the poet William Blake. As a child, Richmond was tutored at home due to health problems. In 1858, at the age of 14, he enrolled at the Royal Academy of Art where he studied drawing and painting for three years. He also spent time at John Ruskin’s house, where he was given private art lessons.
In 1859, Richmond painted his first picture and sold it for £20, spending the money to tour Italy for six weeks with a tutor. This tour had a major impact on his artistic development and career. By 1865, Richmond returned to Italy, where he lived in Rome, studying art for four years. During the 1880s, he travelled often to Italy, Greece, Spain and Egypt where he would spend a few months each year exploring new areas, absorbing the history and mythology of the region, and making numerous drawings and sketches.
Richmond became the Slade Professor of Fine Art at the University of Oxford (1878-1883), succeeding his friend and mentor Ruskin. In 1888, he resumed his relationship with the Royal Academy and was elected an Associate Member (ARA), and a Royal Academician (RA) in 1895. Richmond served as Professor of Painting at the Academy from (1895-1899 and 1909-1911), and continued to exhibit until 1916. He was elected Senior RA at the Academy in 1920.
- Richmond was an early advocate for clean air in London. He founded the Coal Smoke Abatement Society (CSAS) in 1898 and was a member of CSAS for a number of years. The CSAS, is the oldest non-government environmental organization in the UK which later become Environmental Protection UK.
- Richmond wrote magazine articles and gave public lectures on the danger of coal smoke and wrote to the London Times in 1898 requesting for action, stating that “the darkness was comparable to a total eclipse of the sun“.
Richmond died at his home, Beavor Lodge, in Hammersmith on 11 February, 1921.
“Is It Art?”