Richard Parkes Bonington was born in October 1802, in the city of Arnold, England. His father went from a jailer to a drawing master to, finally, a lace-maker, and his mother was a teacher. Bonington learned watercolor painting with his father and exhibited some of his earliest paintings at the Liverpool Academy at only eleven years old.
When Bonington was 14, his family moved to Calais, France, where his father established a lace factory. By this time, young Bonington was apprenticed by the painter François Louis Thomas Francia, who, besides being French, taught him in a rather English watercolor technique, heavily influenced by Thomas Girtin.
In 1818, Richard moved with his family to Paris, where they would open a lace shop. There he met Eugene Delacroix, which evolved into a friendship. He also worked for a time in the Louvre, producing copies of Flemish and Dutch landscapes.
In 1820, he enrolled at the École des Beaux-Arts in Paris, studying under Baron Antoine-Jean Gros. Around this time, Bonington started going on several sketching tours in the surrounding countryside and suburbs of Paris. Bonington first showed at the Paris Salon in 1822. In the following years, the artist traveled through Belgium and then spent much of his time in Dunkirk, where he exhibited his earliest oil paintings. In 1825, during a visit to London, Bonington studied Meyrick’s armor collection along with Eugene Delacroix, whose studio Bonington shared for several months in France.
In almost the whole year of 1826, Bonington traveled through Italy alongside Baron Rivet, a prosperous patron, whom the artist met via Delacroix. In the rest of his quite short life, Bonington had to deal with several commissioned artworks while trying to overcome the increased weakness caused by tuberculosis.
In 1827 and 1828, Bonington traveled to London to visit his art-dealers. On both occasions, the artist exhibited at the Royal Academy of Arts, and also, at the Salon of 1828. He displayed his paintings exploring courtly history subjects.
Richard Parkes Bonington died on September 23, 1828, with only 25 years old.