Zarh Pritchard

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Zarh Pritchard, c. 1918

Walter Howlison Mackenzie "Zarh" Pritchard (26 March 1866 – 29 August 1956) was a British-American artist, known for painting underwater landscapes while underwater, using a diving suit and waterproof materials.

Early life and education[edit]

Walter Howlison Mackenzie Pritchard was born in Madras, India, to British and Irish parents. As a schoolboy in Scotland he read Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea by Jules Verne, and later said that was an influence on his underwater pursuits.[1] Before becoming an artist, he briefly studied medicine, and worked in London, where he designed a sea-themed costume for Sarah Bernhardt.[2]


Classic diving suit of the 19th century, similar to that used by Zahr Pritchard.

Pritchard used modified diving gear to paint underwater, setting up an easel at depths up to fifty feet, and using oil crayons and canvases specially treated to work in that environment.[3] Pritchard traveled the world looking for new underwater scenes, with trips to Bermuda, Tahiti, The Philippines, Santa Barbara, Brazil, and several locations in the Mediterranean Sea.[4][5] He described the colors underwater as extraordinarily intense, "so bright you step back from them", and the fish as "inquisitive".[6] In another interview, Pritchard mentioned ideas for further novelty: he hoped someday to rig underwater electric lighting for "the most interesting effects".[7] Art critic and longtime admirer Antony Anderson of the Los Angeles Times found his work "remarkable", and declared that "Truly, he is one artist among many thousands when it comes to imagination and inventiveness".[8] Pritchard himself rejected the label of "artist", saying "I am not an artist at all, I am a naturalist who happens to be a painter."[9]

In his lifetime, Pritchard's works were displayed both as art and as natural science documents, notably at the Galerie Georges Petit in Paris, at the Cleveland Museum of Natural History,[10] at the American Museum of Natural History in New York City,[11][12] and in Pasadena at the Grace Nicholson gallery.[13] Among other collectors, Albert I, Prince of Monaco and Sir Joseph Duveen purchased works from Pritchard.[14][15] Another admirer, naturalist William Beebe, said, "My ideal room would be one with several paintings of Mr. Pritchard's on each wall."[16]

Personal life[edit]

Pritchard bought a home near Bishop, California in 1914, but abandoned it sometime in the 1930s, and refused to pay taxes for the property; it burned down in 1942.[17]

Pritchard died in Austin, Texas in 1956, age 90. He was buried at the Austin Memorial Park Cemetery.[18]


Pritchard's "Bream in 25 Feet of Water Off the West Coast of Scotland" (1910) is in the collection of the Brooklyn Museum.[19] His "Sunset on Granite Crags, Near Bishop Creek" is in the collection of the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston.[20] Three of Pritchard's paintings were part of a marine-themed exhibition at the Charles H. Scott Gallery in Vancouver, British Columbia in 2012.[21]


  1. ^ Henry Adams (2008). "Art and Technology", in Carroll Pursell, ed., A Companion to American Technology (John Wiley and Sons): 426. ISBN 978-0-470-69533-3.
  2. ^ Antony E. Anderson, "Art and Artists: Flood Tide", Los Angeles Times (May 27, 1906): VI2.
  3. ^ "The Submarine Artist: Waterproof Paints and Canvas and a Diver's Suit Applied to a New Phase of Art", Scientific American (May 1922): 319.
  4. ^ Robert Moulton (1918). "A Painter Under the Sea", The Bellman (June 22, 1918): 683–685.
  5. ^ "Weird Paintings By Noted Artist Made Under Sea", Cornell Daily Sun 55(172)(May 16, 1925): 6.
  6. ^ M. B. Levick, "Painting Under the Sea: Art in a Diver's Suit Ten Fathoms Down Paintings", New York Times (August 5, 1923): BR10.
  7. ^ "The Painter of the Deeps", Popular Electricity Magazine 6(3)(July 1913): 270–273.
  8. ^ Antony Anderson, "Of Art and Artists: Three Exhibits at Grace Nicholson's", The Los Angeles Times, (March 14, 1926): C19.
  9. ^ Malcolm L. M. Vaughan, "Painting Beauty Under the Sea", Los Angeles Times (July 8, 1928): K16.
  10. ^ "Undersea Paintings," The Explorer 1(21)(December 1, 1924): 83–84.
  11. ^ Howard Devree, "Briefs from a Reviewer's Notebook", New York Times (December 8, 1935): X15.
  12. ^ "Museum Notes", The American Museum Journal 16(1916): 212.
  13. ^ Antony Anderson, "Of Art and Artists", Los Angeles Times (March 7, 1926): C16.
  14. ^ "Painting Pictures under the Sea", San Francisco Chronicle (August 20, 1922): SM6.
  15. ^ "Buys Painting of Pasadena Artist: Noted Collector to Take Canvas to Great Museum in New York", Los Angeles Times (January 21, 1927): A10.
  16. ^ "Craftsmen, Painters, an Undersea Artist, Exhibit", Los Angeles Times (March 14, 1937): C11.
  17. ^ Pam Vaughan (2011). Bishop (Arcadia Publishing): 54.
  18. ^ Find A Grave memorial for Zahr Pritchard (1866–1956).
  19. ^ Brooklyn Museum Collections: Zarh H. Pritchard.
  20. ^ Museum of Fine Arts Boston, Collections.
  21. ^ "The Voyage, or Three Years at Sea", Charles H. Scott Gallery, Emily Carr University of Art and Design, Vancouver, British Columbia; 14 March to 22 April 2012.