Born in Wales in the family of a priest, in 1729, moved to London, where he worked as a portrait painter. In 1750-1757 years traveled to Italy, where, on the advice of Francesco Zuccarelli turned to landscape painting — thus becoming the first major British artist, who devoted himself mainly to landscape. Returning to England, Wilson came in 1768 among the 40 founding members of the Royal Academy of arts.
Wilson's landscapes are somewhat abstract character, their influence was recognized by such prominent British artists as John constable and Turner.
The son of a Protestant pastor, Wilson received a classical education. About 1740 in London, he painted portraits ("Admiral Smith," the Greenwich Maritime Museum; "Captain Everitt", Melbourne, NAT. Gal.; "The princes George and Edward", 1748-1749, London, NAT. portrait Gal.). More important for his artistic career began painting "Shelter for foundlings" and "St George", donated to the orphanage for foundlings, where they are to this day. In 1747 Wilson does a few "Dover" (Cardiff, NAT. Museum of Wales). In 1750, on the recommendation of sir Thomas Mann Wilson is sent to Italy to cardinal Albani. He diligently engaged in the landscape; his first work, written in Italian, reflecting the style of Zuccarelli and Marco Ricci. His work also was influenced by the works of Claude Lorrain, Salvator Rosa, Poussin and Gaspard Dughet. In 1752-1756 Wilson lives in Rome, where he meets Bern and paints landscapes ("Landscape with robbers", 1752, Cardiff, NAT. Museum Wales; "Rome, view from Poite Mall", 1754, ibid.). He was deeply worried about the beauty of the Roman countryside and scenery at Tivoli, Albano, castle Gandolfo and lake Nemi, which he wrote on his return from Italy ("Villa adriana in Tivoli", approx. 1765, London, Gal. Tate; "the View of the river Po near Ferrara", 1776, Oxford, Ashmolean Museum).
In 1758 Wilson returns to London and the rest of his life devoted himself to the work on three themes: the views of Italy with the classic characters or robbers, classic English landscapes, especially Welsh, and, finally, the types of country houses. By order of the Earl of Pembroke, Wilson writes, "Five kinds of Wilton" (Wilton house, collection Earl of Pembroke), which are characterized by dramatic contrasts of light and shade and are something much more than just a picture of a specific location; it reflects not only the memories of the artist about Italy, but light-filled landscapes of the Cape. In 1760 Wilson performed his most famous historic landscape in the spirit of S. Rosa "Death of children of Niobe" (not preserved). As a member of the Society of arts, he puts in 1760-1768 36 of their works. Then he became a member of the KOR. Academy of arts, where 1769-1789 exhibits 30 works. However the artist was unable to obtain the patronage of king George III, who preferred landscapes, Zuccarelli more appropriate to the Rococo style. So, after 1765, not having orders, Wilson found himself in straitened financial circumstances and in 1776, agreed to the position of librarian with the payment of £ 50; from this time on, he almost never engaged in painting.
Ruskin wrote that "with Richard Wilson in England, the appears art is captivating in its simplicity of landscape based on thinking and love for nature." One of the most graceful of his works is the painting "View of Snowdon" (Liverpool Art Gal. Walker; options - Nottingham Museum), in which the impregnable Majesty of the mountains is depicted with a purely classical clarity. Wilson's landscapes are imbued with the peace and quiet, they amaze by their clarity and transparency of the atmosphere ("the River Dee near Eaton hall", Birmingham, Barbarovski Institute of arts and other "river Dee", Glasgow Art Gal., London, NAT. Gal. and Gal. Tate). In their vacation homes, serene and majestic, the artist breaks with the faceless art of topographical style. Reynolds regretted that the scenery of Wilson's "too close ordinary nature." However, the artist was the best English landscape painter of the XVIII century, and his works foreshadow the landscapes of Turner and Constable. The work of Wilson is represented in the NAT. Gal., Gal. Tate and the collection of Brinsley Ford, London, the Ashmolean Museum in Oxford, Art Gal. in Leicester, the Mountains. art Gal. in Leeds, Art Gal. in Glasgow, NAT. Museum of Wales, Cardiff, NAT. Gal. in Dublin, the Metropolitan Museum of art in new York and the Art Institute in Chicago. In 1982-1983 in London, Cardiff and new haven hosted a retrospective exhibition of his work.