19th century artist, Eliza Greatorex, sketched Colorado in the 1870s

While researching for my latest book, “Notorious San Juans,” I came across an unexpected crop of unusually accomplished women – all from the same family. The Pratt family of County Donegal, Ireland produced two remarkable women: Eliza Pratt Greatorex, a well-known artist, and her sister Matilda Pratt Despard, a writer. Eliza Greatorex later had two daughters who followed in their mother’s footsteps.

The Pratt girls moved to New York City with their family when they were in their late teens. There, Eliza studied art while her sister Matilda studied writing. At age 30, Eliza married Henry Wellington Greatorex, a composer known for hymns such as “Praise God From Whom All Blessings Flow.” With their three children – Kathleen, Eleanor and Thomas – they traveled throughout Europe and North America, while Henry performed in concerts. In 1858, Henry died suddenly. Eliza supported the family with her art work and teaching at a girl’s school. In the 1860s and 1870s, she and the family traveled around Europe and her reputation as an artist grew. She and Matilda collaborated on a book called “Old New York from the Battery to Bloomingdale’s.” Matilda also later published a novel based on their childhood, called “Kilrogen Cottage.”

In the 1870s, Eliza received a commission to travel to Colorado and create a book of etchings of the mountain scenery in the Colorado Springs area (then called the “Fountain Colony”). The result was “Summer Etchings in Colorado.” (Note: You can download this book from google books.) When she finished this project, she and her two daughters – both now becoming artists – headed back to Europe while Thomas headed further west. The daughters, Kathleen and Eleanor, soon enjoyed reputations as artists in their own right. Unfortunately, the handsome and popular Thomas met a sorry fate in the San Juans, which is why he landed in my book.

The paintings of Eliza Greatorex hang in numerous museums and appear in a number of books. In 1869, Eliza was the first woman to be elected as an associate to the National Academy of New York.

Some of Eliza’s etchings from her “Summer in Colorado” in the 1870s:

Tim Bunker's Pulpit by Eliza Greatorex

Tim Bunker's Pulpit, referring to the giant "castlerock" in the background. The book provides a colorful description of the folks who live in the cabin.

Cheyenne Cañon

A view of what would become Colorado Springs from Cheyenne Cañon.

Ute Pass

Ute Pass

See also Tidbits from Notorious San Juans.

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6 thoughts on “19th century artist, Eliza Greatorex, sketched Colorado in the 1870s

  1. I am happy to learn that the Greatorex family will make an appearance in your “Notorious San Juans.” I am an art historian completing a book on Eliza Greatorex and her circle of Art Women. I will let you know when its completed, and would love to hear if you have found any more information about them. Thanks, Kathie Manthorne

    • Hi Kathie,
      I’d love to read your book when it’s finished. What a remarkable family! I found quite a few articles about Thomas and his death in the Colorado Historical Newspaper Database online. I also noticed that the existing bio’s of Eliza often failed to even mention his existence. I’d be happy to send you my research notes.

      • Dear Stephen Koschal, I am two years late in reading your comment, but better late than never. Do you still have the Eliza Greatorex letter, and am I to understand that since you are a dealer you have the letter for sale? I was born in Manorhamilton, Co. Leitrim, Ireland in 1943 – where Eliza Pratt (to become Greatorex when her family emigrated to America) was born on Christmas Day 1819. Hence my interest in all her work. Best wishes…Ray Lynott

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