Richards was called up for National Service three months after he began his studies at the Royal College of Art, London. He trained originally as a sapper (a military engineer) in Northumberland, Wiltshire and Suffolk, but had his heart set on becoming a paratrooper. This wish was eventually granted when he was accepted for training in 591 (Antrim) Parachute Squadron based at Ringway in Manchester. Life as a sapper was dull and he sought consolation when he could in painting and, by the time he reached Ringway, had completed over 20 works which he submitted to the War Artists Advisory Committee. They accepted eight of his oils of which this is one, purchased in 1942. Richard described it in a letter to the Committee: 'One painting deals with the building of a 'Hutted camp' in Essex – a very pleasant form of work – most of the work of a sapper does is the work of destruction, whether it be a bridge, pill-box or a man. To be given the chance to create is one of the rewards for so much destruction. We arrived at the sight of the 'Hutted camp'. A field with woods, on two sides, a road on the third and a field on the fourth side. Upon this field we built a camp to house two hundred men. The work was very interesting… The camp took about 3 months to build, much hard work was put in. Most of us were as sorry to part with that camp as an artist is with his picture.'
During his brief period of study at the Royal College Richards had come to the attention of Paul Nash, and had seen the work of Stanley Spencer, Eric Ravilious and Edward Bawden, like them his compositions were never straightforward and had an air of strangeness: the familiar seen from an unfamiliar angle. For a full painting description on the British Council’s website please click on the link below under ‘More on this painting’
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British Council Collection
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