Born in Cleveland in 1909, Richard Crist began his formal art education at the Carnegie Institute in Pittsburgh and followed with further training at the Art Institute of Chicago. He returned to Pittsburgh in the 1930’s and joined the WPA Art Project, painting easel work and one large school mural. He later traveled to Mexico where he met Diego Rivera and fell under the influence of David Siqueiros, with whom he had lessons.
On his return to Pittsburgh, Crist won a number of awards at the Associated Artists of Pittsburgh competitions. Crist moved to New Hope, Pennsylvania around 1940, both for the pursuit of his art career and the active theatrical setting of interest to his wife. Crist’s early work in New Hope bordered on Precisionism, with somewhat amusing figures in motion in the landscape. Here he was encouraged by Lloyd Ney to paint non-objective work.
In the late 40’s he moved to Somerset, Pennsylvania with a banker patron who hoped to continue a small art colony. He and his wife began a series of children's books.
Crist exhibited work at the Associated Artists of Pittsburgh, the Butler Institute, the Cincinnati Art Museum, the Museum of Non-Objective Art (now the Guggenheim), Phillips Mill (New Hope and the Whitney Museum, His work is owned by Penn State University, the University of Pennsylvania and the Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh.
He settled in the Woodstock Art Colony in 1960 and remained there until his death in 1985.