Richard Lyster was born in Cork in c.1828, and began drawing at an early age. He continued this in his job as a clerk in the office of Murphy, the official assignee. Murphy encouraged him to take up art as a profession, and helped him to go to Italy to study. He spent five years in Rome painting a number of works including a copy of The Crucifixion after Guido Reni, and a portrait of Fr. F. Mahony (Fr. Prout). Unfortunately, while in Rome, he contacted malaria, and this permanently affected his health.
After returning to Cork he worked as a painter of portraits and subject pictures. He painted a portrait of his friend, Edward Shiel, headmaster of the Cork School of Design. He exhibited at the RHA in 1854, and 1858-62, subjects taken from literature eg: But Mother - He's Going Away (from a ballad of Samuel Lover) in 1858, Baron of Grogzwig (from Nicholas Nicholby Dickens) in 1859. The latter picture was praised by the Dublin University Magazine. In 1861, he exhibited The Fisherman's Return and Girl at a Brook, and the following year A Kerry Girl and a street scene in Cork A Stitch in Time. Among his other subject pictures were Spinning Wheel, The Cobbler, and The Girl who found the Leprechaun.
"Dick"Lyster was a thorough Bohemian, genial in manner, bright in spirit, and passionately fond of a joke...he was a born musician; music sprang from his lips as water from a fountain. Owing to his very delicate health, his doctor forbade him to sing. "But, doctor", he pathetically asked, "may I whistle?". "To your heart's content", was the reply. And it was a genuine treat to hear Dick Lyster whistle and accompany himself on the pianoforte".
He lived first at 43 Patrick Street and then at 44 Cove Street from 1858-63. His health had been weakened by his illness and it was here that he died on 1st August, 1863, only in his mid-thirties. At the Cork Industrial Exhibition of 1883 eight of his pictures were represented.
A Dictionary of Irish Artists by W.G. Strickland, Vol.2
Forgotten by Cork. Lyster, a Painter of No Means Prowess by Diarmuid O'Donobhain. Cork Weekly Examiner, 20th February, 1954
A Record of Authors, Artists and Musical Composers born in the County of Cork by John Gilbert, Cork Historical and Archaeological Journal, Vol.VI, p.176-177