John Richardson, painter and engraver, arrived at Port Phillip in the Clifton on 13 February 1850. His father was Moses Richardson, a well-known Newcastle antiquary, stationer, printer and print-seller. Richardson was a founding member of the Art Society of New South Wales, serving on its council in 1880-1881.
painter and wood-engraver, was born in Newcastle-upon-Tyne, eighth of the twelve children of Moses Aaron Richardson and Ann, née Bouchier. Moses Richardson , a well-known Newcastle antiquary, was a stationer, printer and print-seller who printed and published fine books on local heraldry and antiquities; Moses’s elder brother Thomas Miles Richardson was a well-known Newcastle landscape painter. In 1849, having handed over his printing and publishing business to his eldest son George Bouchier Richardson , Moses Richardson emigrated to Australia for the benefit of his health, arriving at Port Phillip in the Clifton on 13 February 1850 with his wife and nine of their children, including John Thomas.
Details of John Thomas Richardson’s training as a painter and engraver are not known but it is highly probable that he received some tuition from his uncle before migrating, then from his elder brother George, who joined the family in Victoria in August 1854. John Richardson first exhibited in November 1860 with the Victorian Exhibition of Fine Arts, showing three watercolours: Approach to Melbourne from East Prahran , You Yangs, Werribee Plains and St Kilda Beach (Twilight) . In noticing these 'three small and unpretending water color drawings of Australian scenery’, the Age commended Richardson for his 'attention to atmospheric effects’ and his representation of 'the peculiar character of our foliage’. In 1861 he showed Durham Castle and Cathedral , Prahran from Orrong and Evening Composition , his given address being that of his parents – High Street, Prahran.
Nothing is known of Richardson’s subsequent activity or employment until December 1870, when at the first exhibition of the Victorian Academy of Arts he showed an oil painting, Marsden Rock and Coast Durham , and two watercolours, Southern Gorge, You Yangs and Dunstan Borough Castle . On 1 November 1871 he was elected to membership of the Victorian Academy of Arts, at which time he was working for the wood-engraver Samuel Calvert . The following March he exhibited a watercolour, Twilight , at the Academy’s second exhibition. Later that year he left Calvert and went into partnership with Edward Lee at 3 Collins Street. In November 1872 his watercolour painting, Rocks near Cape Otway was included in the Victorian Intercolonial Exhibition preparatory to the 1873 London International Exhibition. The Age critic called it 'a pleasing picture full of feeling’, despite disagreeing with the way the painter had depicted the spray at the top of the breaking waves.
Richardson appears to have moved to New South Wales in 1874 after receiving a painting commission of £100 from 'a liberal patron of art’. By 1876 he had joined the Illustrated Sydney News as chief engraver. He was a founding member of the Art Society of New South Wales, serving on its council in 1880-1881 and showing three oil paintings at its first exhibition in December 1880 from Underwood Street, Paddington: Bell Rock , Grama Grama Bay, Bondi and Valley of the Weatherboard from the Falls . Bell Rock and Merivi è re, Bondi were also sent to the 1880 Melbourne International Exhibition. He continued to exhibit with the Sydney society every year until 1886, when he showed Birdie’s Glen (reproduced in the Illustrated Sydney News ). Then he ceased to be a member.
He moved back to Melbourne in 1888 and lived at various addresses in Richmond up to his death. Although continuing to practise as a wood-engraver he does not seem to have been further involved with any art society. He died at 3 Cross Street, Richmond, on 27 July 1898 and was buried in the St Kilda Cemetery. Richardson had been married twice: in 1871 to Anastasia Agatha O’Neil and, after her death on 9 January 1875, to Mathilda Payne, with whom he had nine children.