Woodville was English by birth. He was descended from the Lancashire de Wyndevilles, and his great-grandfather on his mother's side was Charles Carroll of Carrolton- one of the signatories of the Declaration of Independence. His father, who died before he was born, was a war painter and his mother, a portrait painter.
Wodoville came from an affluent family and, somewhat like Whistler, was brought up in St Petersburg, lived in Paris and finally settled in London in 1875, where he began working for the Illustrated London News. He was a journalistic war artist and travelled, among other places, to the Turkish war in 1878.
He was influenced by the work of Wilhelm Kamphaussen, Court Painter for William I, while under the tuition of E. Von Gebbardt, a religious painter. His work was often compared to that of another war artist, Meissonier. His first Royal Academy picture, exhibited in 1879, was Before Leuthen, Dec. 3rd, 1757, and he exhibited regularly thereafter.
In Egypt in 1882, he made numerous sketches and obtained photographs of Tel-e-Kebir for his friend, the military artist, Alphonse de Neuville, who had been commissioned to paint the battle scene. Their paintings were exhibited at the Fine Art Society in 1883, Woodville, exhibiting The Moonlight Charge at Kassassin. This was an enormous contrast to Whistler's second exhibition of Venetian etchings, shown at the Fine Art Society in the same year.
Woodville's work was carefully finished and based on on-site sketches, photographs and historical prints; he collected firearms and weapons for reference and was assisted in his research into historical costume by Beatrice ('Beatrix') Godwin and possibly by Edward William Godwin. It was probably through Beatrix that he came to know Whistler, and they were friends and neighbours in the late 1880s. He was also a member of The Arts Club from 1885-1905, a Club of wcich Whistler was an occasional member.
He had a studio in Queen's Gate, London. In the 1880s also he began to work more in oils and eventually, in the late 1890s, in colour. He was popular and successful, and meticulous rather than expressive in his work. His work is in many public collections, and includes such paintings as The Charge of the 21st Lancers at Omdurman (Walker Art Gallery, Liverpool).
Woodville committed suicide in 1905.
Records of The Arts Club, London; Bénézit, E., Dictionaire des Peintres, Sculpteurs, Dessinateurs et Graveurs, 8 vols, Paris, 1956-61; Woodville, Richard Caton, Random Recollections, London, 1914; Walkley, Giles, Artists' houses in London 1764-1914, Aldershot, 1994; MacDonald, Margaret F., Beatrice Whistler Artist and Designer, Glasgow, 1997; http://www.military-prints.com (accessed 2003.9.21); Wolff, Justin, Richard Caton Woodville: American Painter, Artful Dodger, Princeton University Press, 2003.