Henry Curzon Allport

Born: 1788

Died: 1854

watercolourist, art teacher and property agent, was born on 6 February 1788, son of William Allport, a land surveyor and schoolmaster of Aldridge, Staffordshire, England, and his second wife Hannah, née Curzon. He was a contemporary and pupil of John Glover . With Glover’s sons John and William , he is believed to have set up as an art teacher in Birmingham in 1808. A letter from Sir William Denison to Allport’s son in 1861 on returning several of his father’s sketchbooks noted that they recalled scenes depicted by Glover and showed there was a great similarity of style between the two artists in the choice of subjects and their treatment.

Allport exhibited three local landscapes at the Royal Academy in 1811 and 1812. Between 1813 and 1820 he exhibited some 22 works with the Old Watercolour Society, mostly views of stock subjects in North Wales and the Lake District and ruined abbeys in Yorkshire. In 1818 he was elected to the Old Watercolour Society to fill the vacancy caused by Glover’s resignation. Having accompanied Glover to Europe that year, in 1819 he exhibited the first of some half-dozen Italian views, nearly all of Tivoli.

Allport painted with great delicacy and high finish, an eye for atmospheric gradation and some largeness in general detail. An 1816 drawing of Conway Castle, exhibited in 1819, was purchased for the British Museum in 1890. He last exhibited with the Old Watercolour Society in 1823, as an associate member, at which time his address was given as Lichfield. Little is known of his activities during the following 15 years. A catalogue now in the British Museum notes: ‘he is believed to have given up art for commerce, and to have been engaged in the wine trade’. His surname was one to give colour to the rumour.

With his second wife Bertha, née Betts, and six children, Allport sailed from London in the Augustus Caesar on 17 November 1838, reaching Sydney on 1 April 1839. His younger brother, Joseph Allport, had earlier settled in Van Diemen’s Land with his wife Mary Morton Allport , who had received drawing lessons from Henry Curzon Allport while a pupil at the school conducted by his parents in Aldridge. John Glover and his family had also settled there. Despite the good wishes of friends in England such as Rev. Charles Kingsley, who provided letters of introduction to acquaintances in Australia attesting to Allport’s artistic talents, it is unlikely that local patronage was sufficient to provide a secure livelihood.

Following their arrival, the Allports settled at Botany and visited Port Macquarie before establishing their residence at Concord Point on the Parramatta River. For a time Allport was employed by the Australian Agricultural Company at Goonoo Goonoo. Later he was agent to Edward Macarthur at Elizabeth Farm, Parramatta; an inventory of the furniture and library of this house was prepared by him in 1854 (Mitchell Library). Despite these activities he was able to devote some time to his painting and appears to have travelled throughout New South Wales for his subjects, although much of his work depicts the environs of the Parramatta River.

As early as 1847 Allport was recognised as a valuable member of the artistic circle which met regularly in Sydney, being described by Heads of the People as an ‘old talented friend from Concord’. He is recorded as having provided art instruction to members of the Blaxland family of Newington, including the flower painter Anna Frances Walker . Walter S. Campbell, whose family lived at Parramatta, later recollected Allport’s weekly drawing lessons at his father’s home.

Allport died suddenly on 2 December 1854, aged 66, and was buried in St John’s Cemetery, Parramatta. Several of his children – Alice , Bertha Betts , Catherine Davison , Clara Lucilla , Henry Curzon junior and John Ireland Allport – are known to have sketched. In 1872 two of Henry Curzon’s watercolour landscapes were included in the first exhibition of the New South Wales Academy of Art and judged to be in a distinctive style of ‘unquestionable merit’.

Written by Kevin Fahy, from Design and Art Australia Online.