In 1873, a relatively young artist, Henry Gritten, died in his Carlton studio doing what he loved most, painting. His death from an epileptic fit was unexpected. Left behind was his young wife and four children and a serious amount of debt. His name was yet to be linked to the great Colonial artists of his time. Despite his friends raising enough money to pay off the bank and an undertaker, Gritten was buried in an unmarked grave at Melbourne General Cemetery.
Surprisingly, not a single painting or photograph of Henry Gritten exists for us to picture him by. All that he left behind were his paintings, many of which were sold to the public to keep the wolf from the door. For his wife Charlotte and his children, one can only imagine what hardships they endured.
Following her husband’s death, Charlotte wrote to The Argus, thanking those who sent money. Little is known of her fate.
Fast forward 146 years. On September 8th, 2019 a memorial stone was unveiled at Henry Gritten’s grave by the Lord Mayor of Melbourne, Sally Capp. A wrong finally righted.
On the day of the unveiling, a surprise awaited. The head of the cemetery discovered that Charlotte and one of Henry’s daughters were buried alongside him. A plaque will be added in memory of his beloved wife.
ARS LONGA VITA BREVIS
Henry C. Gritten
British and Australian Colonial Artist
of International Repute.
Born: London 1818.
Died: Melbourne 1873
Henry Gritten’s artistic career began at the
age of 14.
His paintings captured the beauty of
Henry Gritten’s works were regularly exhibited at
London’s Royal Academy, the British Institute and
the Society of British Artists.
He listed his then friends and fellow artists as:
Sir Edwin Landseer, David Roberts and William
Clarkson Stanfield, while his admirers included
The Prince Consort, the Duke of Norfolk and the
Marquis of Westminster.
He painted in England, Scotland and Europe,
particularly along the Rhine Valley, before
travelling to New York in 1849, where he captured
scenes of the Catskill Mountains, the Hudson
River, Vermont and Brattleboro.
In 1853 Henry Gritten sailed for Australia, joining
the Victorian gold-rush to Bendigo. He painted
scenes around Melbourne and the Victorian
countryside before sailing to Tasmania in 1856.
He settled in Launceston, before returning to
Melbourne for the remaining nine years of his life.
Henry Gritten died destitute, and at his easel, in the
Carlton studio he shared with fellow artist G.J.Browne.
His grave remained unmarked until 2019, when this
memorial was laid, and which, is also dedicated to the
Born: Melbourne 10.11.1942
Died: Launceston 16.12.2017
Love’s last gift, remembrance.
Sharyn Wall, Launceston.