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Richardson, Charles Douglas (1853–1932)

by Margaret Rose

This article was published in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 11, (MUP), 1988

Charles Douglas Richardson (1853-1932), painter and sculptor, was born on 7 July 1853 at Islington, London, second son of John Richardson (1818-1862), artist, and his wife Mary Frances, née Holmes. The family migrated in 1858 to Victoria to join John's brother Thomas Elliott (1814-1869), Presbyterian minister and editor of the Portland Guardian. John Richardson set up a studio at Portland but moved to St Kilda, Melbourne, in 1860.

Educated at Scotch College, Charles Douglas studied design at the School of Design, Carlton, from 1869. In 1871-73 (while apprenticed to the lithographers De Gruchy & Leigh) he studied at the National Gallery of Victoria's school of design under Thomas Clark and in 1878-80 under Oswald Campbell. In 1880 Richardson and Tom Roberts successfully pleaded for establishment of life classes. In 1877-81 Richardson exhibited paintings with the Victorian Academy of the Arts and completed lithographs for the Australian Pictorial Almanac (1880).

In 1881 he went to London and enrolled in the Royal Academy of Arts schools next March for the six-year course. There he joined Roberts and Bertram Mackennal who at times shared his studio. Richardson won three prizes for design and sculpture in 1883 and 1884, including a second and third in the Armitage prizes. He exhibited at the Royal Academy in 1885 ('The Passing of Arthur' and the sculpture 'The Wheelwright') and in 1888 another sculpture 'Mother and Child'. That year he travelled to Italy and France.

In 1889 he returned to Melbourne, exhibited academic paintings with the Victorian Artists' Society in May, and showed wax and painted impressions at the '9 x 5 Impressions' exhibition in August. In 1890-97 as director of the life class he taught at the V.A.S. and exhibited both painting and sculpture. With Margaret Baskerville, Web Gilbert and others in 1898 he founded the influential Yarra Sculptors' Society. A large bronze copy of John of Bologna's 'Mercury' was executed for the Melbourne Age in 1899 and his much praised 'The Cloud' in 1900. In 1902-06 he worked on his commission for a marble group, 'The Discovery of Gold' (Bendigo). He married Margaret Baskerville on 23 December 1914 at East Malvern, and they continued several joint pursuits, including illustrating a booklet for the Red Cross, To the Women of the Empire. A Tribute (1918). In 1922-24 they worked together on bas-reliefs, 'The Dance of the Hours', for the foyer of the Capitol Theatre, Melbourne.

As well as teaching drawing and sculpture Richardson undertook several war memorials and produced several commemorative medals. Although the decline in favour of Victorian period art led to a diminution of Richardson's reputation, he was well known for the help he gave to other artists, though reticent about his own talent. After being secretary, he was a diplomatic and popular president of the V.A.S. in 1917-24 and 1926-30. Associated with the Presbyterian faith, he was reputed to have had 'spiritist' ideas, and was a member of the Vegetarian Society of Victoria.

Predeceased by his wife, Richardson died without issue on 15 October 1932 at Brighton and was cremated. In 1931 he had donated some of his and his wife's works to the Brighton City Council. A memorial exhibition was held in 1933.

Select Bibliography

  • E. Fysh, Memoir of C.D Richardson: Sculptor and Painter (Melb, 1933)
  • C. B. Christesen (ed), The Gallery on Eastern Hill (Melb, 1970)
  • K. Scarlett, Australian Sculptors (Melb, 1980)
  • M. Rose, Victorian Artists: Margaret Baskerville (1861-1930) and C. Douglas Richardson (1853-1932) (Melb, 1988)
  • M. Richardson diaries, 1904-06 (State Library of New South Wales).

Citation details

Margaret Rose, 'Richardson, Charles Douglas (1853–1932)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, http://adb.anu.edu.au/biography/richardson-charles-douglas-8201/text14347, published first in hardcopy 1988, accessed online 22 November 2014.

This article was first published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 11, (MUP), 1988

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