Richard Yarde

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Richard Yarde
Richard Yarde

Richard Yarde‘s vision was about healing: physical, cultural, intellectual, and spiritual. From the portrayals of African American icons to explorations of his own illness, his work encompassed the wide range of the human experience: from isolation to perseverance, triumph, and pure joy.

Richard Yarde was born in Boston in 1939 and for much of his life lived in Northampton Massachusetts. Yarde received a B.F.A. cum laude and a M.F.A. from Boston University. Since the mid-1960s, he has been a major presence in the New England art world. Mr. Yarde has trained generations of young artists and was a Professor of Art at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst from 1990 until his death in 2011. His work enriched our sensibilities as he charted a unique watercolor style. Solo and group exhibitions throughout the country have featured his paintings, which reside permanently in nearly three dozen public collections, including the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston; the National Museum of American Art, Smithsonian Institution; and the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York.

Yarde tackled the traditionally intimate art of watercolor with uncharacteristic bravado. Unlike oil or acrylic painting, watercolor brooks no mistakes. Yet Yarde painted on a heroic scale with dazzling color, rich symbols and deeply evocative imagery.

Critics have written—and Yarde concured—that his body of work was an exploration of his own history. Early on he painted with joy and verve. He would splash the Roxbury neighborhood where he grew up in the 1950s on large sheets of paper, then turn to rendering imagined scenes from the vibrant jazz world of the Harlem Renaissance.

Later, as his own illness became a dominant factor in his life, it also became one in his painting. Imagery of fragmentation (like the gridwork of his trademark style) led to themes of healing and integration. Boldly and on a grand scale, Richard Yarde took the disparate elements of our American culture, past and present and our intellectual heritage and showed that they are one and the same with our own personal journeys to integrate them into a cohesive whole. Richard’s artistic journey is the journey of our American consciousness.

Learn More

Read an article about the local memorial service and exhibits after Richard Yarde’s passing

Read the Boston Globe obituary.

Read the original New York Times review of the 1983 Savoy Ballroom installation at the Studio Museum in Harlem.



Commonwealth Award for Fine Art (2002)

Academy Award in Art from The American Academy of Arts and Letters (1995)


Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York

Smithsonian Institute, Washington D.C.

Museum of Fine Arts, Boston

Museum of Fine Arts, Houston