Ferdinand Richardt

1819-1895, Oakland, CA

Cattle at Fort Scott (The Presidio), San Francisco, CA, c.1870

Oil on canvas laid to canvas
Signed lower right: F. Richardt
37.25" H x 55.5" W

  • Notes: In 1873, Ferdinand Richardt immigrated from Denmark to San Francisco. Prior to his transatlantic relocation with his family, Richardt was a renown painter to European royalty, including the King of Denmark and the Queen of England. In the 1850s, Richardt made several visits to the United States to fulfill commissions for venerable patrons such as William Vanderbilt. This particular assignment, painting the grandeur of Niagra Falls, proved to be a lucrative and high-profile artistic challenge. The endeavor ultimately afforded the artist the opportunity to work in the United States for an additional four years, during which time he readily established the reputation as a sought-after landscape painter.

    The present work, painted during the artist's San Francisco period, is of noted historical significance. Richardt depicts a herd of cows watering in a shallow beach overseen by a cattleman and his dog. On the horizon, steam and sail ships make their way in and out of San Francisco Bay. Live oaks and scattered blooms of lupine punctuate the cliffside and suggest a spring afternoon on the coast. At first glance, this oil appears to feature the quintessential elements of a California pastoral landscape so often painted by Richardt's Bay Area contemporaries, such as William Keith, Charles Dorman Robinson and Raymond Dabb Yelland. Yet upon closer inspection, the viewer cannot fail to notice the inclusion of a silhouetted figure on the bluff: the watchful eye of a soldier on the ridge. This subtle detail is a reference to the value and importance of the herd of cattle, as well as an invitation to imagine what might lie beyond the ridgeline.

    Richardt captures daily life at Fort Point's (aka Fort Scott) on the west side of the Presidio. Due to its proximity to the Golden Gate, in the decades after the Civil War, the strategic significance of the Fort increased. While Richardt was painting this canvas, the Fort was a beehive of activity and new construction. Naturally, the battalions stationed there, in addition to hundreds of construction workers living nearby, required a vast supply of food including meat, baked goods and other necessities to fuel their daily activities. Richardt sensitively depicts details of the trade activities that sustained this bustling, strategic fort.
  • Condition: Visual: Generally good condition. Fine craquelure scattered throughout. Paint shrinkage in some of the white pigments of the clouds. A small spot of paint loss in the center.

    Blacklight: Small spots and lines of touch-up throughout, concentrated mainly in the sky, the largest a 1"x 2" scattered area lower center.

    Frame: 45" H x 63.5" W x 3" D

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May 10, 2022 12:00 PM PDT
Monrovia, CA, US

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