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Henry Constantine Richter

Updated: 2017-05-31T05:17Z
Thylacinus cynocephalus, after Gould, 1845

Henry Constantine Richter (1821–16 March 1902) was a zoological illustrator who produced numerous lithographs of birds and mammals, mainly under the employment of John Gould.

Early years

Henry was born in Brompton around 1821. He was the son of Henry James Richter, a noted painter, engraver and member of the Water Colour Society and his wife Charlotte Sophia. Richter senior exhibited 150 paintings at London and his subjects included scenes from Shakespeare, the Bible and a variety of sentimental Victorian compositions. A disciple of Immanuel Kant, he studied transcendental philosophy. Henry's grandfather, John Augustus Richter, was also an artist and sculptor. When his father died in 1841, they moved from Lisson Grove North to a ladies boarding house at 14 Clarendon Terrace. One of his sisters, Henrietta Sophia, also became a miniature portrait artist.[1]


Richter's earliest bird paintings were two plates published in George Robert Gray's Genera of birds (1844–49). These plates depicted owls and Clapperton's francolin and attracted the attention of ornithologists. In 1841 he was contacted by John Gould, who required assistance after the death of his wife Elizabeth. Richter produced about 3000 lithographic plates and watercolours for his employer. In his will, John Gould wrote "I bequeath to my Artist H C Richter a legacy of £100 as a kind remembrance for the purchase of a ring or any other article that he may prefer." His only work after Gould's death was for the Birds of Asia and a plate for Sir Richard Owen's Memoirs on the extinct wingless birds of New Zealand (1878—9).[1]

Two of his best known illustrations are those of thylacines, from Gould's The Mammals of Australia (1845–63); often copied since their publication, and the most frequently reproduced,[2] one was given further exposure by Cascade Brewery's appropriation for its label in 1987.[3] The government of Tasmania published a monochromatic reproduction of the same image in 1934,[4] the author Louisa Anne Meredith also copied it for Tasmanian Friends and Foes (1881).[2]

Richter died on 16 March 1902 at Frithville Gardens, Hammersmith, while suffering from influenza.Jackson, Christine Elisabeth (1975). Bird illustrators: some artists in early lithography. London: H. F. & G. Witherby. OCLC 2176474. 

Works illustrated


  1. ^ a b Jackson, CE (1978). "H. C. Richter-John Gould's unknown bird artist". J. Soc. Bibliography nat. Hist. 9 (1): 10–14. 
  2. ^ a b University Librarian (24 September 2007). "The Exotic Thylacine". Imaging the Thylacine. University of Tasmania. Retrieved 2009-04-30. 
  3. ^ Stephens, Matthew; Robyn Williams (13 June 2004). "John Gould's place in Australian culture". Ockham's Razor. Australian Broadcasting Corporation. Retrieved 2009-04-28. 
  4. ^ Government Tourist Bureau, Tasmania. Tasmania: The Wonderland. Hobart: Government Printer, Tasmania, 1934
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