Obituary: Richard Yarde, Art professor, acclaimed watercolorist

Richard Yarde, 72, of Northampton, a professor emeritus of Art who was widely celebrated for his watercolors, died Dec. 10 of kidney failure at Cooley Dickinson Hospital.

Born in Roxbury, he attended art classes as a child at the Museum of Fine Arts. He was taking a night class in advertising copywriting at Boston University when his teacher advised him to study art instead. He went on to earn a B.F.A. in 1962 and an M.F.A. in 1964 at B.U. and mounted his first solo exhibition in 1970 at the Carl Siembab Gallery in Boston.

After completing his studies, he taught at B.U., Wellesley, Mount Holyoke, Amherst and UMass Boston before joining the Art Department in 1990. He retired in 2010.

He switched from oils to watercolors around 1977 and soon earned acclaim for his large-scale works, which drew upon African-American themes, his family history and later, his experiences with kidney failure and strokes when he was in his 50s. He underwent a kidney transplant in 1998.

His paintings are in the permanent collections of many institutions, including the Metropolitan Museum of Art, National Museum of American Art in Washington, D.C., Museum of Fine Arts in Boston, Brandeis University and Mount Holyoke College.

His work has been exhibited at Wellesley College, the Studio Museum in Harlem, the Roosevelt Museum in New York, the San Diego Museum of Art, Utah Museum of Fine Arts, Smith College Museum of Art and the Massachusetts College of Art.

In 1995, he was honored by the American Academy of Arts and Letters with an Academy Award in Art for exceptional achievement in painting.

His other honors included a Commonwealth Award in 2001 for contributions to art, humanities and science, and an honorary doctorate from the Massachusetts College of Art in 1998.

On campus, he was selected for the Distinguished Teaching Award in 1997 and a Conti Faculty Fellowship in 2000.

His wife, Susan Donovan, died in September.

He leaves two sons, Marcus and Owen, and a grandson.

A memorial service is being held Saturday, Jan. 28 at 1 p.m. at the First Baptist Church of Amherst, 434 North Pleasant St.