Henri Benedictus Van Raalte Biography

Henri Benedictus Van Raalte




English-born Australian painter and printmaker Henri van Raalte was born in London in 1881 to Dutch parents. He was educated at the City of London School, the Royal Academy and later in Belgium and the Netherlands. Among his instructors were John Singer Sargent, Herbert Dicksee, and George Clausen. In 1901 he was elected an associate of the Royal Society of Painter-Etchers and Engravers, and in the same year had a picture hung at the Royal Academy exhibition. At age 21 in 1902, Modern Etching and Engraving published full-page reproductions of an etching and a dry-point by van Raalte for The Studio at London, one of the youngest printmakers to be awarded such a space.

In 1910 he emigrated to Western Australia and began teaching art, including printmaking. His earliest works focused on Australian gum trees, for which he became recognized in Western Australia and which established him as an Australian artist, though it was some time before his work became known in the eastern states. He had an exhibition of his work at Perth in 1919 which was followed by another at Adelaide. In 1921 he was appointed curator of the art department at Adelaide, and in 1922 his title was changed to curator of the Art Gallery of South Australia. He resigned in January 1926 after interference by Sir William Sowden, president of the Gallery's board, in the hanging of what Van Raalte considered "bad art".[4] He established a studio at Second Valley, South Australia, and lived there for the last three years of his life.

Van Raalte then established a studio at Second Valley, South Australia. Though he suffered from severe depression, van Raalte was otherwise in good health, and it was intended that he should hold an exhibition of his work at Adelaide about the end of 1929. On the 4th of November of 1929 he was found in the grounds of his house shot through the head, and he died on the same day, apparently a suicide. He left behind a widow and three sons. 

Several exhibitions of van Raalte's work have since been held in Australia, including a retrospective of his work in 1982 at the Art Gallery of Western Australia. Little is known of his painting in Australia but his etchings are widely collected. Examples of them can be found in the print-collections at Sydney, Melbourne, Adelaide and Perth and at the British Museum, London.