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Longtime Theater Critic Enjoys New Career As Poughkeepsie Artist

Richard Wrisley Day. Photo Credit: Suzanne Kee
One of Richard Wrisey Day's drawings Photo Credit: Contributed

POUGHKEEPSIE, N.Y. -- A Ph.D in Italy. A wine critic in Bridgeport. And now an artist in Poughkeepsie. Richard Wrisley Day is a true Renaissance man.

Wrisley Day grew up in Red Hook, his father having moved there with a dream of becoming a farmer. He was home schooled, studying on his own and with a tutor with a library of books at his disposal.

"I schooled myself to a considerable extent," Wrisley Day said. "I was studious from the word go."

Finding himself interested in the performing arts and the visual arts, Wrisley Day would take the train to New York City on weekends to attend performances of the Metropolitan Opera and began offering his criticism.

"When I first started writing reviews, I sounded like a scholarly German," Wrisley Day said. "I gradually improved it be more English language oriented."

After a stint in Italy where he got his Ph.D,  Wrisley Day found himself hired as the new art critic for the Bridgeport Post and Telegram.

"I was very aggressive," Wrisley Day said. "I did not just confine myself to local performances. I went into New York City and saw classical music, operas, and theater."

Wrisley Day even went to Europe, attending a Wagner Festival or exploring the arts scene in London. He later found himself becoming the wine critic for the newspaper.

"I wouldn't say I was a great critic, but a busy one," Wrisley Day said. "I had a reputation for being an honest critic. I was relatively frank. People seemed to like what I did and respected it."

When it comes to being a wine critic, Wrisley Day said he made sure to expand his knowledge.

"I visited vineyards and I drank a considerable amount," Wrisley Day, who had 2,000 bottles in his cellar, said. "I learned what to look for in wine- the flavor and the aroma. It's very important."

In the 1980s, a new editor came in and Wrisley Day soon realized it was time to move on.

"He didn't like art, so I put in a letter of resignation and walked out," Wrisley Day said.

For the last twelve years, Wrisley Day has turned to his own artwork, drawing satiric and unusual photos, working with oiled pencils. He recently hosted an exhibition at the Grand Rehab Center in Poughkeepsie, where he is staying following a bad fall.

"People seem to like my artwork," Wrisley Day said. "They kept asking me why I hadn't held an exhibition. I'm going to keep pushing myself and do a lot more. I'm hoping I'd be up for the challenge."

When he's not drawing, Wrisley Day said he maintains an interest in history, archeology and detective fiction.

"I am by nature a scholar," he said. "I want to know how it happened and why it happened. I'm very curious."

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