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Richard Redgrave RA (1804 - 1888)

RA Collection: People and Organisations

Richard Redgrave RA was a genre and landscape painter and arts administrator, born 30 April 1804 at 2 Belgrave Terrace, London, the second son of William Redgrave (1775–1845), a manufacturer, and his wife, Mary (d. c.1814). He was the younger brother of the art historian and civil servant Samuel Redgrave (1802-1876). He began work as a clerk and draughtsman in his father’s factory, which produced wire fencing but soon set his sights on becoming an artist. His landscape The River Brent, Near Hanwell was selected for the 1825 Royal Academy exhibition and the following year entered the Royal Academy Schools. Thereafter his works were exhibited regularly at the Royal Academy, the British Institution, and the Society of British Artists.

Initially he painted historical genre scenes in 18th century costume, but in the 1840s he was among the first to turn to social subjects in contemporary dress, e.g. The Seamstress (1846), Bad News from the Sea, The Governess (1844) and The Outcast (1851) .The latter, his Diploma Work, was one of the first works to address the modern moral subject of ‘the fallen woman’. His later works were mostly landscapes, painted in an intensely brilliant Pre-Raphaelite style.

He was elected an Associate RA in 1840 and an Academician in 1851 (retired, 1882). Along with his brother Samuel, he was a founding and life-long member of the Etching Club from 1837.

Redgrave’s productivity as a painter decreased in the last decades of his life as he assumed the new and influential roles of arts administrator and author. Along with Henry Cole, Redgrave became the driving force behind the reform of art education in Great Britain. He held several positions in the Government School of Design (later the Royal College of Art): botanical teacher (1847), headmaster (1848), art superintendent (1852), and in 1857 he became inspector–general for art, in which capacity he developed a national curriculum for art instruction.

Redgrave and Cole also supervised the new South Kensington Museum (now the Victoria and Albert Museum), for which Redgrave designed the innovative art gallery to house John Sheepshanks’s extensive collection of British art, given to the nation in 1857.

Redgrave organized the British art section for both the Universal Exhibition in Paris in 1855 (for which he received the cross of the French Légion d‘honneur) and for the International Exhibition in London in 1862. In 1857 he was appointed surveyor of the queen’s pictures, a position he held until 1880, during which time he produced a meticulous thirty-four-volume manuscript catalogue of the paintings in the Royal Collection, notable for its commentary on conservation. On his retirement he was created a CB.

Redgrave published various texts on art and design, and also wrote with his brother Samuel an important and influential history of British art, A Century of Painters of the English School (1866),

Redgrave died at home at 27 Hyde Park Gate, Kensington, London, on 14 December 1888 after suffering for years from increasing blindness and physical debility. His funeral service was held on 18 December at St Mary Abbot’s, Kensington, followed by burial in Brompton cemetery.


Royal Academician

Born: 30 April 1804 in London

Died: 14 December 1888

Nationality: British

RA Schools student from 1 April 1826

Elected ARA: 2 November 1840

Elected RA: 10 February 1851

Retired: 09 Jun 1881

Gender: Male

Preferred media: Painting, Printmaking, Etching, and Illustration

Works by Richard Redgrave in the RA Collection

221 results

Works associated with Richard Redgrave in the RA Collection

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Associated books

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Associated archives

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