painter and schoolteacher, was born in Ratcliff, a parish of Stepney, Middlesex in the East End of London, eldest son of William, a schoolteacher and painter of the Stuart family of Manor House, Stepney Causeway, and his wife Amelia, also a painter. William was christened in St Dunstan’s Church, Stepney on 16 July 1832. According to Graves, W.E.D. Stuart exhibited at the Royal Academy (1846-58), the British Institution (1848-58) and at Suffolk Street (1849-58). Most of his paintings appear to have been of still life and marine subjects, a rare exception being The Temptations of the Good St. Anthony (1854).

Stuart set sail from London aboard the Lincolnshire and arrived at Melbourne on 24 March 1859. He went to Sandhurst (Bendigo) but was not successful as a digger, so set up as an artist on the spot. The shop he used as a studio appears in an unsigned, unfinished painting of Pall Mall and Bell Street (Bendigo Art Gallery). An amateur actor in the Bendigo Volunteer Dramatic Club, Stuart appears to have been a colourful local identity. But his painting activities did not prove profitable; McCulloch suggests that the initials HMG added under his signature on some paintings stand for Her Majesty’s Gaol (Sandhurst), where he was imprisoned for debt.

In 1866 Stuart sent The Battle of Trafalgar (Bendigo Art Gallery) to the Intercolonial Exhibition in Melbourne, to which W. Crowe lent a fruit study by 'E.D. Stuart’. He exhibited two oil paintings with the Victorian Academy of Arts in 1873: The Bride’s Boudoir and The 'Great Harry’ conveying Henry VIII . Two of his paintings on the lives of the Stuart kings were auctioned at Bendigo in 1871. Fruit studies by 'Stuart R.A.’, exhibited by R. Bullock at the Geelong Mechanics Institute in 1857, were clearly also by him, although these initials were unearned; he was never a member of the Royal Academy but had merely exhibited there. Nevertheless, when he died of pneumonia on 25 October 1873 at Bendigo, his funeral notice in true colonial fashion referred to him as 'the late William E.D. Stuart R.A.’. Even so, he was buried in a pauper’s grave in Sandhurst Cemetery.

Watson, Michael J.
Date written:
Last updated: