WILLIAM RUPERT FENWICKE RICHARDSON OAM
22.7.1929 – 10.5.2013
THE death of renowned watercolour artist Rupert Richardson was not a surprise, but still came as distressing and devastating to those who knew and loved him.
William Rupert Fenwicke Richardson was surrounded by his family – wife Virginia, daughter Emma Woodward and grandchildren Vanessa and Michael – when he died in a Port Macquarie nursing home on Friday.
It’s been reported that he first took up the brush at age five, when he received his first paintbox, and sold his first painting at 11.
By the age of 16, his works were being shown at the Australian Watercolour Institute in his first exhibition.
Although born in Sydney, he was a country boy at heart, and regularly travelled to Barraba with the family as a child visiting Plumthorpe, where the famed Burdekin collection was born.
Mrs Richardson said her husband had not painted for several years as Parkinson’s disease had begun to take its toll.
“They were so good to him at the nursing home – just marvellous,” Mrs Richardson said.
“All the family was there, and the girls and one of the male staff members kept popping into the room. They were so upset.”
Barraba harpsichord builder Bill Bright struck up an artistic relationship with Mr Richardson in 1976 when he invited the prolific artist to paint the lid of one of his creations – a bold and somewhat controversial move at the time.
Today those lids are much in demand and grace the premises of many a fine establishment, including the Sydney Opera House.
“There’s also one in the Powerhouse Museum,” Mr Bright said.
“Sometimes, when I open the lid at a performance, there’s this spontaneous applause – just for the painting.
“What a legacy he’s left behind, though. We are so fortunate to have all those treasures of his. He had an amazing impact on this town – and on the region.”
Mr Bright said Mr Richardson was a great influence on many people – both in the world of art and in his six terms in local government.
He served on the former Barraba Shire Council for 24 years and was shire president from 1981 to 1992.
“Parkinson’s was a cruel way for him to go. Like me, he possibly would have preferred to go like Margaret Olley did: finish a painting, have a fag and go to bed and not wake up,” Mr Bright said.
Another hugely significant part of Mr Richardson’s life was Rotary. He was the governor of Rotary District 9650, taking up the reins after Tamworth solicitor John Boag’s term.
In March this year, 150 of Mr Richardson’s artworks were collected for a special fundraising exhibition at Barraba Golf Club, combining three of his passions – wine, art and Rotary.
Some 80 different owners of Rupert Richardson paintings took the opportunity to salute the great man and loan their artworks for the exhibition, which was a fundraiser for the Westpac Rescue Helicopter Service.
Possessed of a philanthropic nature, Mr Richardson donated hundreds of paintings throughout his life.
A funeral service will be held at St Andrew’s Anglican Church, Walcha, on Thursday at 11am, followed by a private interment on the property Europambela, where he will be buried alongside his parents.
Flowers were not sought at the service, but mourners can donate to the Australian Rotary Health Foundation.
Family friend and business partner Peter McNeill will deliver the eulogy.