George Richmond, RA, 1809 - 1896
Portrait of William Page Wood, 1st Baron Hatherley 1801-1881, Lord Chancellor
William Page Wood, 1st Baron Hatherley

"George Richmond delt / 1855"

pencil, back and white chalk on brown paper
60.96 x 45.72 cm. (24 x 18in.)


This drawing is one of several a preparatory drawings made by George Richmond, some of which were engraved and some used for oil portraits , noteably a full length portrait in the National Portrait Gallery collection.

William Page Wood, Baron Hatherley (1801–1881), lord chancellor, was born at his parents' home in Falcon Square, London, on 29 November 1801, the second son and fourth child of Sir Matthew Wood, first baronet (1768–1843), hop merchant and sometime lord mayor of London, and his wife, Maria Page (c.1770–1848). Most of his early childhood was spent with his maternal grandmother at Woodbridge in Suffolk, where for a time he attended the free school. From 1809 to 1812 he was at Dr Lindsay's school at Bow in Essex, and in September 1812 he started at Winchester College where he remained until 1818 when, as a senior prefect, he was expelled for his involvement in a school protest against a master who had used corporal punishment on prefects. His expulsion did not hold him back in any way from pursuing further education, and he went for two years to Geneva, where he was placed in the charge of Duvillard, professor of belles-lettres, and attended university lectures. Through his father he was introduced to many politicians both in England and in Paris (1817). At the Auditoire in Geneva he learned French, Italian, and mathematics, and mixed with the university students. In 1820 he returned to England as an escort for Queen Caroline, who enjoyed his support and loyalty during her later court case. Indeed, Wood even collected evidence in Italy on her behalf.

By the time Wood entered Trinity College, Cambridge, in October 1820, he was much more mature, cultivated, and better informed than most undergraduates of his years, but his university years were hampered by ill health. In 1821 he won the second college declamation prize with an essay defending the revolution of 1688, and in 1822 was elected to a scholarship; but he came out only twenty-fourth wrangler in January 1824, and had to withdraw from the final classical examination altogether. In October 1824 he was only narrowly elected to a fellowship, since he was imagined by some to hold his father's radical opinions, and his prize essay of 1821 had not been forgotten.

On 1 March 1824, through the help of Brougham and Denman, Wood entered Lincoln's Inn where he read law in the chamber of Roupell. After studying conveyancing under John Tyrrell in 1826, he was called to the bar on 27 November 1827, and started practice at 3 Old Square, Lincoln's Inn. He soon found clients, and his first speech in court was delivered before the House of Lords in Westmeath v. Westmeath. He did much railway work before parliamentary committees from 1828 to 1841, as well as in the chancery courts, and it was out of one of his cases that the standing order of the House of Lords afterwards known as the Wharncliffe order originated. In 1841 he gave up parliamentary work, and his chancery practice immediately increased. He became a queen's counsel in February 1845.

Wood's father had inherited a large fortune, and his own savings from professional earnings were enough to make him independent of practice. As early as 1829 he was earning £1000 a year, and had become engaged to Charlotte (1804–1878), the daughter of Major Edward Moore. They were married on 5 January 1830, and lived in Dean's Yard, Westminster, until 1844; they had no children. As a queen's counsel Wood attached himself to the court of Vice-Chancellor Sir James Wigram.

Wood was a strong high-churchman and an advanced Liberal, and, entering parliament for Oxford in 1847, spoke principally on ecclesiastical topics, such as church rates, the ecclesiastical commission, the Deceased Wife's Sister Bill, and the admission of Jews to parliament. In 1850 he chaired a committee on the oaths question and moved that Baron Rothschild, who was Jewish, should be allowed to take up his parliamentary seat. He also spoke and voted in favour of the ballot and household suffrage and against the game laws. In May 1849 he accepted from Lord Campbell, chancellor of the duchy, the vice-chancellorship of the county palatine of Lancaster, then a sinecure worth £600 a year, but only on condition that his court should be reformed and be made an actual working tribunal. An act was accordingly passed for this purpose, and he held the office for two years.

In 1851 Wood was a member of the commission on the court of chancery, and prepared several bills, all of which were ultimately passed, which aimed to improve chancery procedure. In the same year he was appointed solicitor-general in Lord John Russell's administration and was knighted. A vice-chancellorship was offered to him shortly afterwards, which he was inclined to accept, as the strain of office, particularly during the passing of the Ecclesiastical Titles Bill, which he heartily supported, took a heavy toll on his health. However, at Lord John Russell's request he refused the offer and held on.

The government fell in February 1852, but in December, when forming his administration, Lord Aberdeen offered Wood a choice between the solicitor-generalship and the vice-chancellorship (vacated by Sir George James Turner, on his appointment as lord justice). Wood accepted the vice-chancellorship and was sworn in before the beginning of the Hilary term 1853. For the next fifteen years he was an active chancery judge. His normal practice, which he only departed from once, was to deliver oral judgments only, because his eyesight was poor and he felt that a written judgment would cause unnecessary delay. Lord Campbell, when lord chancellor, criticized this approach in his appeal judgment in Burch v. Bright; however, the other vice-chancellors and the master of the rolls united in protesting against such indirect lecturing of a chancery judge. Wood then received an apology from Campbell.

In addition to his judicial work Wood was constantly engaged in commissions on various legal and ecclesiastical topics including questions concerning cathedrals, divorce, legal education, consolidation of statute law, and the University of Cambridge commission. He was also one of the arbitrators in the dispute between the estranged queen and the king of Hanover over the rights of possession of the Hanover crown jewels. He became a lord justice of appeal in February 1868, and was appointed lord chancellor in Gladstone's administration of December 1868.

Wood's selection was somewhat unexpected but, at a time when the disestablishment of the Irish church was being prepared, his two great characteristics of sound legal learning and earnest churchmanship made him eminently suited for the position. He was created Baron Hatherley of Hatherley in the county of Gloucestershire.

During his tenure as lord chancellor, Hatherley took an effective part in the Irish church debates, although he was not a particularly eloquent speaker. He passed the Bankruptcy Act of 1869—a measure afterwards deemed defective because it encouraged costly bankruptcy proceedings and did not adequately protect assets from being dissipated—and the Judicial Committee Act of 1871. He did not pass his judicature bill. Disappointed and nearly blind, he resigned in 1872. He died on 10 July 1881 at his home, 3 Great George Street, Westminster. He was buried in the churchyard of Great Bealings, Suffolk, five days later. The peerage became extinct on Hatherley's death. Sir Evelyn Wood was his nephew and Katharine Parnell his niece.

As a lawyer Hatherley was learned and industrious and he made a good and efficient judge. His decisions were rarely appealed and even more rarely reversed. Outside the law he had many activities and interests. As a young man he translated the Novum organum for Basil Montagu's edition of the works of Francis Bacon, and through Montagu he came to know a literary circle which included Coleridge, Carlyle, and Irving. His schoolfellow Dean Hook remained a friend all his life. A deeply pious man, from 1834 onwards Wood was a member of the committee of the National Society, and from 1836 to 1877 was a Sunday school teacher in his own parish of St Margaret's, Westminster.

Lord Westbury once described him as a mere bundle of virtues without a redeeming vice. Tolerant as well as devout, he supported the bill for the admission of Jews into parliament and disapproved of any religion-based political disability.

J. A. Hamilton, rev. Sinéad Agnew  DNB

Artist biography

Richmond, George (1809–1896), portrait painter, fifth child of Thomas Richmond (1771–1837), miniature painter, and his wife, Ann Coram (1772–1860), of 42 Half Moon Street, Mayfair, Westminster, was born on 28 March 1809, probably at Brompton. He was baptized on 1 May at St James's Church, Piccadilly, London.

Artistic training and involvement with the Ancients

With his artistic family background (Thomas's great-grandfather was the miniaturist George Engleheart), and a gift for drawing strongly apparent by the age of twelve, it is not surprising that Richmond decided on a career in art. What other learning he received was at a dame-school in Soho; this limited elementary education explains his perennial difficulty with spelling, and his execrable handwriting. More important for his future were his regular visits to the British Museum to draw from the antique. He entered the Royal Academy Schools at Somerset House on 23 December 1824, and exhibited his first academy work, in tempera, in 1825: Abel the Shepherd (Tate collection). Among his older fellow pupils was a part-time student, Joseph Severn, a friend of John Keats, who had attended the poet's deathbed.

The most profound early influence on Richmond was that of William Blake, to whom he was introduced by John Linnell when he was sixteen; Richmond said that a conversation with Blake was like talking with the prophet Isaiah. He was at Blake's home, 12 Fountain Court, the Strand, on 12 August 1827, when Blake died, and he closed his eyes. A moving account of Blake's death, which Richmond sent to his friend Samuel Palmer, described how ‘His countenance became fair—his eyes brightened and he burst out singing of the things he saw in Heaven. In truth he Died like a Saint’ (G. E. Bentley, Blake Records, 1969, 346–7).

Blake had been the mentor to a group of young artists and friends which came to include Richmond. Palmer was the pivotal figure; the other members of the circle were Edward Calvert, Francis Oliver Finch, Henry Walter (1779–1849), Welby Sherman (fl. 1827–1834), Palmer's cousin John Giles (1810–1880), and two sons of the architect Charles Heathcote Tatham, Frederick (1805–1878) and Arthur (1809–1874). The Ancients, as they called themselves, met regularly, and frequently visited Shoreham in Kent, where Palmer's father lived and the painter himself owned a cottage. There they lived simply, bathing in the river, reading poetry, playing music, and discussing their work. Richmond recalled that, at Shoreham, he had managed to live on about 10s. a week. A simple piety animated the group: Richmond recollected how ‘We all said our prayers attended church and Trusted wholly in God and were blessed in that Trust’ (Richmond family MSS). They continued to meet regularly even into middle age.

Early career and marriage

Wishing to broaden his artistic horizons, Richmond visited France from 1826 to 1829, supporting himself there by painting miniatures. Until the 1830s, in addition to portraits, he also engraved, drew, or painted religious and literary subjects set in landscapes reminiscent of Palmer's work. Among them were the engravings The Shepherd (1827; uncompleted) and The Fatal Bellman (1827), based on a passage in Macbeth; the paintings Christ and the Woman of Samaria (1828; Tate collection), and the numinous The Eve of Separation(1830; Ashmolean Museum, Oxford). Drawings in pen and ink, sometimes heightened with watercolour, include the Blake-like A Damned Soul Hanging from a Gothic Building(1823; priv. coll., England) and The Angel and Elijah (1824 or 1825; Tate collection).

About 1826 Richmond fell in love with Julia (1811–1881), the beautiful fourteen-year-old sister of the Tatham brothers, whose father had engaged Richmond to give her drawing lessons. Although old Tatham had encouraged the romance, his diminishing fortune brought a change of mind when a rich and elderly suitor expressed interest in Julia. Learning of this, the young couple—encouraged by Palmer, who loaned Richmond £40—eloped to Gretna Green, where they were married on 24 January 1831. Back in London, Richmond set up home at 27 Northumberland Street, New Road, sending Julia to stay for the time being with Palmer's father at Shoreham. Meanwhile John Linnell persuaded Tatham that Richmond had a promising future. Tatham forgave them, and within three weeks George and Julia were reunited: their marriage proved to be long and happy. They had fifteen children, of whom ten survived infancy; with this growing family Richmond needed a reliable income, and he spent most of his remaining working life painting portraits.

In the 1830s Richmond began to extend his social life; he was assisted by the tory politician Sir Robert Inglis, bt, who introduced Richmond to his circle. This included Inglis's second cousin William Wilberforce and the family of Henry Thornton. Inglis became guardian to Thornton's family after his death, and moved into the Thorntons' house, Battersea Rise, much frequented at that time by artists and thinkers. It was during a visit to Battersea Rise that Richmond was offered the chance to paint Wilberforce's portrait; timidity made him hesitate, but his wife insisted that he must do it. It was a turning point in his career: as an engraving by Samuel Cousins it sold well, enhancing both Richmond's reputation and his bank balance. By 1836 he was earning £1000 p.a. from portraits and enjoying considerable popularity. During the 1830s his sitters included the countess of Pembroke (1835), four reigning bishops—Chester (1833), Lichfield (1833), London (1833), and Montreal (1836)—the Revd Samuel Wilberforce (1834), later bishop of Oxford, and then of Winchester, Rowland Hill (1834), and Charles Darwin (1839).

Visit to Rome

In 1837 Richmond and his wife, accompanied by the newly-weds Samuel and Hannah Palmer, visited Italy. The party embarked at Blackwall in October, and six weeks later entered Rome through the Porto del Popolo. Richmond lost no time in looking up his old fellow student Joseph Severn, now married and living in Rome. Severn later became British consul and was already moving in prestigious social circles, to which he introduced Richmond, as well as to other English artists working in the city. Among those with whom Richmond became thus acquainted were John Baring, of the banking dynasty, Sir Henry Russell, and Sir William Knight, son of the keeper of the privy purse under George IV. Among many social events during the coming months Richmond attended a party at the house of Torlonia, the Roman banker, where he saw the dukes of Devonshire and Sutherland and the Russian tsarevich. Severn also introduced Richmond to the young W. E. Gladstone, already at the age of twenty-nine an MP; with him the painter rode beyond the limits of the Roman states, where the young politician demonstrated his disapproval of the papal administration by throwing his hat in the air, crying ‘long live liberty!’

However, the climate of Rome did not suit Richmond, who was anyway something of a hypochondriac. His eyes weakened, and for one period at least he was compelled temporarily to ‘desist from night studies’. His fretfulness continued intermittently throughout the Italian visit, but he worked pertinaciously at such self-imposed tasks as copying Roman murals, and experimenting with technical devices, including an egg-yolk-based medium. He visited the Vatican to view Raphael's Loggia and the Sistine Chapel, recording the number of hours he spent sketching there. At the Sistine Chapel he obtained permission from Filippo Agricola, the managing artist, to erect scaffolding, so as to study more closely Michelangelo's frescoes. He studied carefully many other works, and attended life classes at the Rome Academy.

Further afield Richmond visited Naples, Pompeii, and Herculaneum, after which he travelled with Julia to Florence. There he threw himself with enthusiasm into the study of everything, from Michelangelo's David in the Accademia di Belli Arti to Leonardo's Adoration of the Magi in the Uffizi, and many works by the early Italian masters. Back in Rome, Richmond produced some original work, including landscapes and subject paintings, such as The Journey to Emmaus, commissioned by Baring. And there were portraits, enough to underline where his future lay: ‘It will’, he said in a note about 1841, ‘be a long time before I shall earn equal reputation by historical art’ (Richmond family MSS). Richmond and his wife finally left Rome on 22 June 1839, stopping at Florence for ten days, before setting off for Venice, where Richmond expressed himself ‘less astonished than delighted’. Above all, he was able to study there the work of Titian, Veronese, and Tintoretto, and was impressed especially by the latter's awesome Crucifixion in the Scuola di San Rocco. The Richmonds left Venice for home in August 1839.

Success as a portrait painter

In England, Richmond's portrait commissions multiplied. One of especial significance to his future career was a portrait of Thomas Dyke Acland, later eleventh baronet (1840), commissioned by the prestigious Grillion's Club, whose members were drawn from high strata of the aristocracy, politics, and professions. A portrait of each member was commissioned on his election: this opened a grand prospect for Richmond, who became for many years the club's portrait painter. In all, he painted seventy Grillion's portraits, and in 1861 was made an honorary member of the club. Richmond presented its members, many of them young MPs, as a high-minded élite; his drawings constitute one of the best series of British public-life portraiture.

Richmond visited Rome again in late 1840, and renewed acquaintance with much that he had seen during his previous visit, in addition to taking in much that was new to him. Characteristically, on this visit he pushed himself to study all he could during the daylight hours, and to study anatomy in the evening. As usual, this punishing regime led to depression and illness, which nevertheless abated whenever he received a letter from his wife. John Ruskin, then twenty-one years old, was in Rome at this time, and was introduced to Richmond by Joseph Severn. After visiting the Vatican with him, Richmond noted that Ruskin was ‘not so open to receive impressions nor does he kindle readily at the sight of the great works’ (Richmond family MSS, diary, 16 Dec 1840). Despite this artistic difference of opinion, Ruskin was devoted to Richmond for many years, and was influenced by him in the development of his own aesthetic awareness.

Richmond returned home early in 1841, having been away four months. He was immediately inundated with portrait commissions and was so busy that he was giving four or five sittings a day; before long his annual income exceeded £2000. With Richmond's ever expanding family, and an ever growing professional practice, a larger and more convenient house became necessary. Therefore, in 1833 the family moved to 16 Beaumont Street, London, where a son, William Blake Richmond (1842–1921), was born, and then in 1843 to 10 (later renumbered 20) York Street, off Baker Street, where Richmond remained for the rest of his life.

Whenever possible Richmond turned to landscape, which was closer to his predilection than portraiture. There is no doubt that this imperative concentration on portraiture led to a neurotic inner struggle, and in turn to illness and depression. Despite his yearning for other subjects, however, Richmond was a superb portrait painter, his work refined by studies in Italy. If some of his portraits flattered somewhat, they were still, he said, ‘the truth lovingly told’ (E. T. Cook and A. Wedderburn, eds., The Works of John Ruskin, 36, 1909, xxvii). Such is his affectionate depiction of Samuel Palmer (1829; NPG), in which his friend's spiritual quality is fully captured, but his usually unkempt appearance is tactfully tidied. Occasionally—inspired no doubt by his strong evangelical beliefs—Richmond painted religious subjects, such as The Agony in the Garden (1858; Whitehaven Methodist Church, Cumberland).

Family, professional, social life, and other interests

Richmond was a small man, but carried himself with dignity, and won much respect. As a family man he was a devoted husband and father, not averse to romping with his children. Yet he could be strict, even stern: when his son Willie ran away from home with Palmer's son, Thomas More, he was made to memorize scolding letters sent to him by his father's friends.

In 1844 Richmond was appointed by Gladstone to a seat on the School of Design council, vacated by Sir Augustus Callcott. In addition, he was making professional visits to Devon and Yorkshire, yet he still managed to attend the foregatherings of the Ancients. No doubt he was once again overworking, although he had breaks at Battersea Rise and in Kent, where he could indulge himself in landscape painting. But these short respites became increasingly difficult to arrange, and were almost impossible by 1847, in which year he painted nearly one hundred portraits. Throughout his life he continued to find time to study the technique of painting—his own work seldom, if ever, satisfied him and from the 1860s he added photography to his resources as an aide-mémoire.

Richmond's social life prospered: in addition to his honorary membership of Grillion's Club, he was elected a member of Johnson's Club (1860), the Athenaeum (1856), and of the Club of Nobody's Friends (1856). Professionally, he served on the royal commission for determining the site of the National Gallery, and in 1857 he was elected an associate of the Royal Academy, becoming an academician in 1866.

At infrequent intervals Richmond turned to sculpture, the technique of which he probably learned while a student at the Royal Academy. His most important sculpture—commissioned in 1859, and completed in 1867—was a recumbent effigy of his friend Charles James Blomfield, bishop of London, for his tomb in St Paul's Cathedral. From 1866 Richmond also began to undertake restorations, beginning with the full-length portrait of Richard II in Westminster Abbey. The earliest contemporary portrait of an English monarch, it had been inexpertly restored and overpainted in the eighteenth century, and was considered to be beyond repair. Richmond, feeling confident that he could restore it, offered his services to the dean; the work was successfully realized by Henry Merritt, the picture cleaner, under the artist's supervision. Following this triumph, Richmond received many similar commissions, the most spectacular of which was the restoration between 1872 and 1875 of Daniel Maclise's murals in the palace of Westminster, Wellington Meeting with Blücher after the Battle of Waterloo and The Death of Nelson.

Last years, death, and assessment

During his final years Richmond worked largely on landscape, although he still painted a few portraits. The Ancients died: Henry Walter was the first to depart in 1849, Calvert the last in 1883; as the group's central figure, Samuel Palmer, lay on his deathbed in 1881, Richmond knelt in prayer beside him. Julia Richmond died in the same year. In old age he spent much time with his children and grandchildren. Surviving friends—among them Ruskin—kept in touch with him, but he had distanced himself from Gladstone because of what he considered to be mistaken policies towards Ireland and the Sudan.

Richmond received many honours, including honorary doctorates from the universities of Oxford and Cambridge, honorary fellowship of University College, London, and honorary associate membership of the Royal Institute of British Architects. Towards the end he became infirm and suffered frequent bouts of illness. He died at his home, 20 York Street, London, a few days before his eighty-seventh birthday, on 19 March 1896, and was buried in Highgate cemetery on 22 March.

As a portrait painter Richmond was undoubtedly a master, despite his preference for landscape and his forced overproductivity. His early pencil or chalk portraits, which closely resemble those of his contemporary Samuel Laurence, appear in technique to be based on the nets of lines and cross-hatchings of engraving, an art practised by Richmond early in his career. After studying in Italy, however, his oil paintings became enriched by splendid colouring which owed much to Veronese, while such devices as placing the sitter by an open window show the influence of Titian. This intelligent imitation of the Italian Renaissance masters served to lift Richmond's best works well above the common run of mid nineteenth-century portraiture.

Raymond Lister  DNB