painter and professional photographer, exhibited six paintings at the London Royal Academy between 1818 and 1844, five of which were portraits. He was awarded the Society of Arts’ silver palette in 1824. The E. Dalton, miniaturist and portrait painter, who exhibited at the Pennsylvania Academy in 1827 was almost certainly Edwin; he had spent some time in North America before coming to Australia. Indeed, he possibly made more than one American visit both before and after he became a pupil and studio assistant of the painter Sir William Ross. In 1841 or 1842 he married Ross’s sister, Magdalena Ross (1801-74), a miniature painter who exhibited prolifically at the Royal Academy between 1820 and 1856. The couple continued to live and work in London and probably also visited Europe.
Edwin Dalton set out alone on more distant travels. He seems to have come to Victoria in the early 1850s, possibly in search of gold. In August 1853 he was advertising in Melbourne that he had begun business as a portrait painter. At that year’s Victorian Fine Arts Society’s Exhibition he showed eleven works as a resident professional portrait painter (care of Mr Baker, Swanston Street). His Portrait of the Worshipful the Mayor of Melbourne M.L.C. was the only identifiable local work; the remainder included miniatures of King Leopold of Belgium (one by Dalton’s wife is in the Royal Collection) and Sir Thomas Lawrence, PRA. At the 1854 Melbourne Exhibition Dalton showed six portraits in French crayon (pastel), the medium that became his speciality. William Pender exhibited his portrait by Dalton at the same exhibition. Dalton was then living in Upper Hawthorn but soon moved to Sydney.
In March 1855 the Illustrated Sydney News favourably reviewed Dalton’s life-size portraits of Sydney identities: J.S. Dowling ('so life-like that it is almost laughable’), Walter Lamb, Henry Parkes and numerous others. In August 1856 the Empire noted his recently completed portrait of the prima donna Anna Bishop, claiming that 'for fidelity of portraiture, depth of tone and beauty of colouring, the picture ranks with any work, in its particular line of art, we have yet seen in the colony’. With portraits of 'the late Duke of Cambridge’, Henry Parkes and 'a Lady’, it was included in Dalton’s 'collection of photographs, miniatures and lithographs’ shown in the 1857 exhibition at the Sydney Mechanics School of Arts. In a letter to the editor of the Sydney Morning Herald the secretary of the School of Arts, Joseph Dyer, suggested that Dalton should send on to the Victorian Society of Fine Arts Exhibition 'some of those life-like crayon heads, whose vraisemblance is so great that you could almost speak to them’.
Dalton first advertised as a daguerreotype artist as well as 'crayon painter’ in 1857. The following year he moved from 245 to 400 George Street and opened his Royal Photographic Portrait Establishment, offering as his credentials 'crayon portrait painter and late instructor and painter to the Queen’. He had the royal coat of arms printed on his photographic mounts. This appears to have been no idle boast. In 1850 Magdalena Dalton had exhibited at the Royal Academy as 'Miniature Painter to the Queen’ and in 1862, when Dalton’s Sydney premises were destroyed by fire, he was said to have lost in the flames an autograph letter from and a series of etchings by Queen Victoria, 'who received lessons from Mr Dalton in that art’. The claim clearly impressed Sydney society and Dalton photographed and drew members of a number of leading families including the Macleays, Dumaresqs and Onslows (Camden Park albums, Mitchell Library).
He produced stereoscopic views. A set of Sydney Harbour and the Hawkesbury River above Richmond were offered for sale in January 1859, 'intended to form a series… of some of the most familiar spots of this favoured locality should sufficient encouragement be offered for their publication’. In October his composite photograph of the seventy-nine members of the first Legislative Assembly of New South Wales was issued. The original assemblage is in the New South Wales Parliamentary Library.
Dalton first advertised his 'invention’, the crayotype or crayongraph, in December 1858: 'finished in Crayons by his own hand, from powerful Photographs, taken of the subject – require but one sitting and can be multiplied to any extent’. Examples could be seen at the Philosophical Society. At a Philosophical Society conversazione a year later he showed 'a few of his best coloured portraits, including two crayongraphs – a style of portraiture which Mr Dalton has introduced and pursued with great success’, stated the Sydney Morning Herald on 20 December 1859. 'The largest and most striking was Mr Dalton’s group of heads of the members of the Assembly, being the original picture from which the smaller published sheet is reproduced’.
On 8 March 1861 the Herald commended 'a very beautifully finished portrait in his new style of photograph finished up with chalks’ on view in the Sydney Mechanics School of Arts Exhibition. These pastel-coloured portrait photographs were very popular and widely disseminated. Dalton’s 'new style of portraiture’ (now called a 'biotype’), including a portrait of Sir Alfred Stephen, was discussed in the Launceston press in 1860 when a Dalton operative appears to have visited Tasmania. Dalton himself made intercolonial tours, and either he or his representatives from 'Dalton’s of Sydney’ appeared all over the country, including Queensland. A Dalton carte-de-visite (uncoloured) of the Rockhampton Native Police is dated 1862 (Capricornia Institute).
In August 1862 Dalton advertised that he had moved into the former Empire newspaper office, six rooms over the shop of the confectioner T.W. Foster. The building was destroyed by fire soon afterwards, on Wednesday 27 August. In addition to his mementos of Queen Victoria, Dalton lost a large collection of photographs and crayon portraits. A few days later, however, he had secured rooms at 320 George Street and was continuing to advertise photographic portraiture 'in all the modern branches – crayon, ivory, glass and paper – artistically coloured by E. Dalton… Children’s portraits taken instantaneously’. On 24 September, just a few hours before departing for England, William Charles Wentworth sat for Dalton in his new rooms. Cato considered the result, produced in three different sizes, 'the only good portrait of William Charles Wentworth ever taken in Australia’. In November cartes-de-visite of Wentworth and Dalton’s portraits of Lucy Escott and Henry Squires were offered by the stationer and art dealer J.R. Clarke at 5s each, together with a 'great variety of European and American celebrities’ by Dalton for 2 shillings.
Dalton showed fifteen frames of photographs at the 1862 London International Exhibition. On 11 June 1863, the day of Sydney’s official celebrations in honour of the marriage of the Prince of Wales, he displayed at the premises of Mr I. Simmons 'a beautiful likeness of the Prince and Princess, an enlarged and faithful copy of the photograph taken of them both at Berlin before their marriage’. In May 1864, when preparing to leave the colony, he held a special exhibition in his rooms of his life-sized portraits. They included Sir John Young, the late T.W. Cape, Thomas Cooper and Charles J. Fairfax, the last three being coloured photographs. The Sydney Morning Herald noted 'that the demand for these efforts of Mr. Dalton’s pencil is now greater than he can supply, and those who have not embraced the opportunity of availing themselves of his talents will be compelled to forego that advantage’. He may then have made a short intercolonial visit, but he was in Sydney back by September, when he renovated his Royal Photographic Establishment. In November he was advertising that his price for cartes-de-visite would be 2s 6d after the first copy instead of the usual 5 shillings.
Early in 1865 he sold the business to Thomas Felton , who continued to operate under the Dalton name. Edwin Dalton returned to England in the Great Britain , auctioning his household furniture and effects before his departure. His possessions may perhaps be considered an indication of the prosperity he enjoyed in the colony; they included 'Very Superior Household Furniture and Effects’ and a 'pair Handsome Carriage Horses, Carriages [and] Set Double Harness’. Photographers who trained or worked at his studio included Oswald and Eliza Allen , William Bradley and David Scott . When the studio finally closed in 1870 William Freeman moved into the premises and acquired all Dalton’s negatives.