Australian Dictionary of Biography

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Charles David Bryant (1883–1937)

by Joanna Mendelssohn

This article was published:

Charles David Jones Bryant (1883-1937), marine artist, was born on 11 May 1883 at Enmore, Sydney, fifth son of John Ambrose Bryant, storekeeper, and his wife Caroline, née Leedon. Educated at Sydney Grammar School, he was brought up at Manly in a musical family and played the cello. At 9 he began art lessons with W. Lister Lister, a family friend, and first exhibited with the Art Society of New South Wales in 1900. On leaving school he worked in the Bank of New South Wales.

In 1908 Bryant went to London where he was a pupil of John Hassall; later, while studying marine painting with Julius Olsson at St Ives, Cornwall, he became a close friend of (Sir) William Ashton. He exhibited with the Royal Institute of Oil Painters, of which he became a councillor, the Royal Academy of Arts, the Salon des Artists Français (Paris Salon), and the Walker Gallery, Liverpool; he was also a member of the Royal Society of British Artists and an associate of the Royal British Colonial Society of Artists. Involved with Australian expatriates in London, he was an habitué of the Chelsea Arts Club, the Savage Club and the London Sketch Club.

In 1917 Bryant was appointed an official war artist and honorary lieutenant with the Australian Imperial Force. He painted war-ravaged towns and villages in northern France, but many of his sixty-nine paintings now in the Australian War Memorial, Canberra, were 'studio' pictures such as 'First Convoy crossing the Indian Ocean, November 1914'.

Bryant returned to Sydney in 1922 and his exhibition of seventy pictures was opened on 16 November by Governor Sir Walter Davidson. The National Art Gallery of New South Wales paid 300 guineas for 'Landing the Catch' and 150 guineas for 'Low Tide at St Ives'. That year he was elected a fellow of the Royal Art Society of New South Wales and was a vice-president in 1929. He was commissioned by the Commonwealth government to paint a series of pictures of the Australian occupation of German New Guinea in 1921, and in 1925 by the New South Wales government to depict the American fleet in Sydney Harbour for the president of the United States. In 1924-30 Bryant ran a colour-store in George Street while living at Manly, where he was a founder and committee-man of the Art Gallery and Historical Collection. His portrait by Lawson Balfour shows him incurably neat with black bow-tie, waistcoat and loose white coat for painting, his short black hair brushed straight back from a somewhat heavy face.

About 1931 Bryant went to England and in 1933-34 was president of the London Sketch Club. On his return in 1936, he held one-man exhibitions in Sydney and Melbourne. Unmarried, he died on 22 January 1937 at Manly and was buried in the Church of England cemetery. His estate was valued for probate at £4670. Although he painted some charming seascapes, he is mainly remembered for his sympathetic studies of ships. Memorial retrospective exhibitions of his work were held in 1937 and 1938. He is also represented in the State art galleries in Adelaide, Brisbane and Melbourne, in regional galleries, and in the Imperial War Museum, London.

Select Bibliography

  • Memorial Exhibition of Paintings by the Late Charles Bryant (Syd, 1937)
  • Art in Australia, 1919, May 1937
  • B.P. Magazine, Dec 1929–Feb 1930, Mar 1937
  • Sydney Morning Herald, 9 June 1921, 20 Dec 1923, 24 Nov 1925, 7 Jan, 18 Nov 1926.

Citation details

Joanna Mendelssohn, 'Bryant, Charles David (1883–1937)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 1979, accessed online 22 May 2024.

This article was published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 7, (Melbourne University Press), 1979

View the front pages for Volume 7

© Copyright Australian Dictionary of Biography, 2006-2024

Life Summary [details]


11 May, 1883
Enmore, Sydney, New South Wales, Australia


22 January, 1937 (aged 53)
Manly, Sydney, New South Wales, Australia

Religious Influence

Includes the religion in which subjects were raised, have chosen themselves, attendance at religious schools and/or religious funeral rites; Atheism and Agnosticism have been included.