Ansdell was born in Liverpool, Lancashire, the son of Thomas Griffiths Ansdell, a freeman who worked at the port, and Anne Jackson. His father died young and Richard was educated at the Bluecoat school for orphans. He had a natural talent for art from an early age, and after leaving school worked for a portrait painter in Chatham in Kent, and also spent time as a sign painter in Holland.
He first exhibited at the Liverpool Academy in 1835, becoming a student there the following year. His animal and rural subjects proved to be popular and he soon attracted wealthy patrons. His first exhibition at the Royal Academy, London, was in 1840, with two paintings called 'Grouse shooting' and 'A Galloway farm'. This was followed, in 1841 by 'The Earl of Sefton and party returning from hunting', in 1842 'The death of Sir William Lambton at the Battle of Marston Moor', in 1843 'The Death' and in 1844 'Mary Queen of Scots returning from the chase to Stirling Castle'. He went on to exhibit pictures every year at the Academy until 1885 (149 canvases in all). In 1846 he exhibited his first picture, 'A Drover's Halt' at the British Institution, London, and went on to show 30 canvases there.
In June 1841, he married Maria Romer - the couple went on to have 1children. In 1847 the family left Liverpool to live in Kensington in London.The Poacher At bay (1865)
In 1850, Ansdell started collaborating on pictures with Thomas Creswick, who specialised in landscapes (e.g.:'The South Downs', 'England's day in the country' etc.). He also worked with William Powell Frith ('The Keeper's daughter') and John Phillip, with whom he travelled to Spain in 1856 and painted a series of Spanish subjects - 'The Water Carrier', 'The Road to Seville', 'The Spanish shepherd' etc. He returned to Spain alone the following year to paint more pictures there.
In 1855, Andsell was awarded a gold medal at the Paris Exhibition for his works, 'The Wolf Slyer' and 'Taming the 'Drove'. He also won the 'Heywood medal' three times for his work at the Manchester Royal Institution. He was elected an Associate of the Royal Academy (ARA) in 1861 and a Royal Academician (RA) in 1870.
During part of his career he kept a 'summer house' at Lytham St Annes, in the borough of Fylde, where a district, Ansdell, is named after him. He is the only English artist to have been honoured in this way.
Ansdell died at 'Collingwood Tower' near Frimley, Surrey in April 1885. He was buried at Brookwood Cemetery. Works'The Fight for the Standard'
Ansdell's best known works include Stag at bay (1846), The Combat (1847), and Battle of the Standard (1848) - depicting the capture of the French flag at Waterloo by Sergeant Ewart of the Scots Greys.
Ansdell's subject matter was compared to that of Edwin Landseer, though critical opinion was that, though popular, his works lacked the latter's emotional impact. His reputation was as a hardworking but occasionally over-proud artist; for instance, he received no royal commissions after refusing to paint Queen Victoria's dogs unless they were brought to his studio.
Many of his works are owned by Fylde Borough Council, and from September 2007 a collection of these paintings has been on display in a permanent art gallery at a new Booths supermarket in Lytham.