Richards was born in Dunvant, near Swansea in Wales. After working as an apprentice to an electrician, he studied at Swansea School of Art from 1921 to 1924 and at the Royal College of Art, London from 1924 to 1927. In the 1930s Richards was influenced by Surrealism and he exhibited at the 1936 International Surrealist Exhibition in London. From 1945 Richards's work was influenced by Matisse and Picasso after he saw an exhibition of their work. In addition to making wooden reliefs and painting, Richards produced book illustrations and designs for the theatre.