George Richmond (1809-1896) was the son of Thomas Richmond (1771-1837), a miniature painter, and his wife Ann Coram (1772-1860). Richmond received limited education at a dame school in Soho. He entered the Royal Academy Schools at Somerset House on 23 December 1824 and exhibited his first academy work, Abel the Shepherd, in 1825.
At sixteen Richmond was introduced to William Blake and the older artist had a profound influence on him. He was at Blake's home when Blake died in August 1827, in a letter to his friend Samuel Palmer he said Blake died like a saint. Blake had mentored a group of young artists of which Richmond and Palmer were part and who branded themselves as 'The Ancients'. They frequently visited Shoreham in Kent where Blake owned a cottage and where Palmer's father also lived; there they lived simply - bathing in the river, reading poetry and discussing their work. A simple piety ran through the group and Richmond later recalled that he was able to live in Shoreham on 10s a week. The group would continue to meet regularly until its members were well into middle age.
In 1826 Richmond fell in love with Julia Tatham (1811-1881) whose father had engaged Richmond to give her drawing lessons. Whilst the romance was initially encouraged a change in fortune led to Mr Tatham preferring a rich and elderly suitor as a match for his daughter. Richmond and Julia hearing of this eloped to Gretna Green where they were married in January 1831. Mr Tatham quickly forgave them once friends of Richmond's persuaded him that Richmond had a promising future. Richmond's marriage proved to be long and happy, with ten children surviving infancy. With a growing family Richmond needed a reliable income and after his marriage he mainly concentrated on portraiture.
Richmond's social circle expanded in the 1830s, this was partly assisted by the Tory politician Sir Robert Inglis who was the second cousin of William Wilberforce. Richmond was offered the chance to paint Wilberforce, he hesitated about it at first but his wife insisted he do it. This marked the turning point in his career and helped enhance Richmond's reputation and bank balance, earning £1000 in the year 1836. In 1837 Richmond and his wife visited Italy. Whilst in Rome Richmond was introduced to William E. Gladstone and in his travels around Italy he studied the Italian masters.
Richmond returned to Britain in August 1839 and his portrait commissions multiplied. The Grillion Club commissioned him to paint the portrait of Thomas Dyke Acland and this led to more commissions for portraits of club members. Richmond became the club's portrait painter and in total painted seventy Grillion portraits and in 1861 became an honorary member. The 1840s saw his annual income exceed £2000. Despite being an acclaimed portrait painter Richmond preferred landscape painting, indulging in this on breaks away.
In 1844 he was appointed by Gladstone to a seat on the School of Design Council, he was also becoming increasingly over worked painting nearly one hundred portraits in 1847. He served on the royal commission for determining the site of the National Gallery and was asked at least twice by Gladstone to be its Director - both times he refused.
Occasionally Richmond would work in Sculpture, his most famous sculpture being a recumbent effigy of his friend Charles James Blomfield, Bishop of London for his tomb in St Paul's Cathedral. His later career also saw him undertake restoration work on portraits, successfully restoring a full length portrait of Richard II. Throughout his career he continued to study the technique of painting, from the 1860s he added photography to his resources as an aide-memoire.
Richmond's later years saw him receive several honours including honorary doctorates from the universities of Oxford and Cambridge. His wife Julia died in 1881 and Richmond painted little after her death. He died at his home, 20 York Street, London, a few days before his eighty-seventh birthday on 19 March 1896.
This biographical description is largely based on Raymond Lister, 'Richmond, George (1809–1896)', Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press, 2004; online edn, May 2007 [http://www.oxforddnb.com/view/article/23594, accessed 17 Feb 2017]