Richard Wilson RA (1713 - 1782)

RA Collection: People and Organisations

Richard Wilson was born in Penegoes, Wales. The son of a rector, Wilson’s social status was higher than most artists of his generation. A wealthy relative sponsored Wilson’s early artistic training in London, after which he established himself as a portrait painter.

In 1750, Wilson travelled to Italy in 1750, where he broke away from portraiture and focussed on landscape painting. He developed a style derived from the classical landscapes of Claude Lorrain and Gaspar Dughet. Returning to London in 1757, Wilson set up an impressive studio in the Piazza in Covent Garden, producing classicised versions of the English landscape which became fashionable among the gentry and aristocracy.

Wilson helped raise the status of landscape-painting, with many of his works reproduced as engravings and sold to a wide public. By the late 1760s many of Wilson’s commissions for subject pictures were coming from printsellers rather than private individuals.

Wilson played an important role in the founding of the Society of Artists of Great Britain, where he exhibited during the 1760s before seceding to the Royal Academy of Arts, where he became a Founding Member in 1768. During the 1770s, Wilson’s physical and mental health declined, reducing his capacity to create artworks. This led to financial difficulties, exacerbated by his increased drinking habits. He moved into modest accommodation, 1776 becoming the Librarian at the Royal Academy, a position reserved for struggling artists in need of supplementary income. He retired to Wales in the early 1780s, where he died in 1782.

Despite falling into poverty and neglect towards the end of his life, Wilson is widely regarded as the central figure in the early history of the British landscape school.


Royal Academician

Foundation Member

Born: 1 August 1713 in Penegoes

Died: 11 May 1782

Nationality: British

Elected RA: 10 December 1768

Librarian: 5 December 1776 - 11 May 1782

Gender: Male

Preferred media: Painting

Works by Richard Wilson in the RA Collection

25 results

Works after Richard Wilson in the RA Collection

3 results

Works associated with Richard Wilson in the RA Collection

2 results

Associated books

8 results

Associated archives

24 results