John Skinner Prout

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Portrait of J. S. Prout, 18--, sepia toning; oval image 14 x 11cm. Allport Library and Museum of Fine Arts, State Library of Tasmania

John Skinner Prout (1805–1876), painter, writer, lithographer and art teacher was born on 19 December 1805 in Plymouth, Devon, England. He is the eldest child of John Prout and Maria Skinner. His father was the elder brother of watercolourist Samuel Prout. Skinner Prout married Maria Heathilla on 19 June 1828. They had eight children; four daughters (Matilda born in 1828, Anna Maria born in 1831, Rosa Heathilla born in 1833 and Agnes born in 1838) and four sons (Frederick born in 1834, Victor Albert, Edwin born in 1837 and Edgar born in 1839).

On 3 December 1838 in London Prout was elected a member of the New Society of Painters in water colours.

Prout emigrated to Sydney in 1840, accompanied by his wife and their eight children, hoping to pursue a career in Australia as a professional artist and printer. Amongst the possessions that he brought with him to the colony of New South Wales was a lithographic press, which enabled him to set up the 'J. S. Prout and Co. Australian Lithographic Establishment.'

In the first four years of his residence in Sydney, between 1840 and 1844, Prout undertook a number of sketching tours in the districts around Sydney. Prout followed the route of many artists of the period, journeying west across the Blue Mountains towards Bathurst, south to Broulee and the Illawarra district, and north to Newcastle and Port Stephens. Returning from these travels, Prout would work up his sketches into finished works in lithographs, watercolour and oil paint for sale.

Whilst Prout was a resident in Sydney he held a number of exhibitions of his work. He also presented lectures on the technique of drawing and painting in watercolour, sold numerous works, and produced a series of lithographic views of the colony, a number of which were published in Sydney illustrated.

Due to the lacklustre market for his works, competition by more established artists such as Conrad Martens, and the depressed economic circumstances of Sydney during the 1840s, Prout and his family moved once more, this time to the colony of Van Diemen's Land (Tasmania) in February 1844. Here Prout was more successful, drawing the patronage of the Governor Sir John Franklin and his wife. Prout returned to England in June 1848.

His son-in-law was the illustrator Harold Copping.

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