Jonathan Richardson (the elder) was a portrait painter, art writer, and art collector. He was born in London in 1665. Before training as a portrait painter with John Riley, he was apprenticed to a public scribe. As such he considered himself to be a writer just as much as an artist. He was one of the early British writers to argue that painting was an equally intellectual art as poetry. However, thanks to his accurate formal style and his chalk drawings of close friends and family, he was most recognized as one of London’s leading portrait painters. In his portraits Richardson aimed to depict something of the sitter’s personality, as well as their visual likeness.
Richard expressed his view on painting in An Essay on the Theory of Painting, which was published in 1715. This is seen as the first notable piece of English artistic theory, and among Richardson’s other writings, is said to have inspired Joshua Reynolds, first president of the Royal Academy, to become an artist.
He continued his writing four years later, writing his Essay on the Whole Art of Criticism as it Relates to Painting and an Argument in Behalf of the Science of The Connoisseur. Richardson is said to have been the first to use the term
Richardson was very knowledgeable in the drawings of the Old Masters, and over his life time he built up a personal collection of nearly a thousand Old Master drawings. Richardson died in Bloomsbury in 1745.