John Inigo Richards RA (1731 - 1810)

RA Collection: People and Organisations

John Inigo Richards was born in London, the son of a scene-painter, John Richards, who is thought to have assisted William Hogarth on his murals in St Bartholomew’s Hospital. The younger Richards claimed that Hogarth was his godfather.

Richards studied with the landscape and scene painter George Lambert (a collaborator of Hogarth), and in 1759 began painting scenery for productions at Covent Garden Theatre. Initially working with Nicholas Thomas Dall and Giovanni Battista Cipriani, Richards became established as the theatre’s principal scene-painter from 1777 to 1803 (his name sometimes featured prominently on playbills). Richards designed scenery for entertainments including pantomimes, comic operas and masques. He sometimes drew upon work by topographical artists such as William Daniell when creating scenery for productions set in Asia or the southern hemisphere. All of Richards’ scenery is believed to have perished when Covent Garden Theatre burnt down in 1808.

Alongside his work as a scenery painter, Richards painted landscapes. He eventually abandoned landscape painting due to other commitments but his early landscapes are extremely accomplished. Between 1768 and 1783 Richards contributed eighteen paintings to the Free Society of Artists, and from 1762 to 1768 he exhibited twenty-nine works, mainly landscapes, at the Society of Artists. Richards was an influential figure at the Society: he was elected a fellow in 1766, and when Lambert died just four days after his appointment as President in 1765, Richards was suggested as one potential successor.

Richards resigned from the Society to become a Founder Member of the newly-formed Royal Academy in 1768, where he became Secretary in 1788. Between 1768 and 1808 Richards exhibited thirty-nine paintings at the Academy. As Secretary Richards succeeded the first incumbent Francis Milner Newton and moved into apartments at the Royal Academy premises in Somerset House. During this time Richards was said by William Sandby to have catalogued the Academy’s collection, though no manuscript now exists. In 1791 he was paid 12 guineas to restore Leonardo’s Holy Family cartoon, then belonging to the Academy. Richards executed his secretarial duties ably, although during Benjamin West’s presidency he became embroiled in factionalism and was accused of breaching the neutrality of the Secretary.

Richards died at Somerset House and was buried at St. Paul’s, Covent Garden. Despite his high level of productivity Richards was impoverished by the time of his death. Richards’ work as a scene painter may have hampered his development as a landscape artist to some extent, but he was sufficiently well regarded within the artistic community to be accepted as a Founding Member of the Academy.


Royal Academician

Foundation Member

Born: 1731 in London

Died: 18 December 1810

Nationality: British

Elected RA: 10 December 1768

Secretary: 10 December 1788 - 2 March 1810

Gender: Male

Preferred media: Painting

Works by John Inigo Richards in the RA Collection

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Works after John Inigo Richards in the RA Collection

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Works associated with John Inigo Richards in the RA Collection

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Associated books

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Associated archives

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