Richard Schlecht was born in Texas and raised in Denver, Colorado. Although he received no formal schooling in art, Schlecht exhibited interest in drawing and painting as a young child. During his formative years he experimented constantly with various drawing and painting techniques, and eventually became interested in the difficult medium of watercolor, a fascination that has continued throughout his career.
Soon after he graduated from College with a degree in Journalism, Schlecht realized that art, not writing, was his metier. He began his career as an illustrator while in the Army and stationed in Northern Virginia. In 1967, after the Army, he began as a freelance illustrator and has worked with National Geographic for the over 30 years. Other clients have included Time-Life Books and the National Park Service. Schlecht has illustrated science articles, historical reconstructions of underwater shipwreck sites, numerous archeological sites such as Wolstenholme Towne, near Williamsburg, VA, Mayan cities, Neanderthal caves, Native American cultures, Spanish treasure ships, etc. His work on Wolstenholme Towne was featured in two Geographic articles: "First Look at a Lost Virginia Settlement," June 1979, and "New Clues to an Old Mystery," January 1982. He was included in a book published by The National Geographic Society, "The Art of National Geographic-A Century of Illustration," by Alice A. Carter in 1999. Other examples of his work can be seen in the various issues of National Geographic Magazine, for instance, April 1999 and June 2002.
Periodically, he has reserved increasingly large blocks of time for his personal painting and over the years has had numerous exhibitions in New York, firmly establishing his reputation as a desirable artist and attracting many collectors. In the 1980s, at the invitation of Italian sculptor Bruno Lucchesi, Schlecht traveled to Pietrasanta in Tuscany, Italy. It was to be the first of many visits to Italy for extended periods. This new exposure triggered a burst of creative energy, which led to the brooding and mysterious Italian Hill Town series of watercolors. Beautifully composed, each painting depicts houses, vineyards, olive groves or the hillsides of ancient Tuscany and Umbria.
In 1992, Richard Schlecht completed the paintings for the U.S. Postal Service Christopher Columbus Commemorative Stamp Series. He has designed more than 24 stamps for the U.S. Postal system. He is represented in collections nationally and internationally.