Thomas Carleton Grant, RBA (1858-1899) During a career of 15 years that essayed a range of subject matter, Carleton Grant developed a highly individual form of watercolour landscape. While undoubtedly influenced by the nocturnes of James McNeill Whistler, his contribution presents evening time in a manner that is particularly soft and gentle, with the last light reflected in quiet backwaters, often those of the Thames Valley.
Thomas Carleton Grant was born in Liverpool, Lancashire, in 1858, the second of the three children of the baker and flour dealer, Thomas Grant, and his wife, Catherine, both of whom had been born in Ireland. During Grant’s earliest years, the family lived above its provisions shop at 60 Boundary Street. By 1871, they had moved a mile or so to the east to Poplar Street, Everton, and then, by 1881, south of the centre to 114 Rosebery Street, Toxteth Park. In that year, all three of the Grants’ adult children were described as ‘unemployed’, Carleton specifically as ‘bookseller’s clerk, unemployed’, while their mother was working as a ‘mantle maker’ (probably making fittings for gas lamps).
For a while, Carleton worked in the postal service, during which time he may have developed his belief in Socialism.
It is not known where, or whether, Grant undertook a formal study of art but, in 1885, he began to exhibit at the open exhibitions of modern pictures at the Walker Art Gallery, Liverpool (showing 10 works there until his death). Late in the decade, he lived at Liscard, on the Wirral (1888), and then in Rhyl (from 1890), but was already producing watercolours of the southern counties of England as well as North Wales.
In April 1891, Grant was staying at Bay View Cottage, Ty Gwyn Road, Llandudno, with his widowed mother and his younger, unmarried sister, Catherine. The census taken in that month described him as ‘single’ and a ‘landscape artist’. However, within a month, he married Charlotte Maria (née Roberts), the daughter of the Llandudno builder and contractor, David Roberts (who wrote poetry in Welsh under the name of Boreufardd); and, on 16 May, Charlotte gave birth to a son, Kenneth.
For a while, Grant and his new family lived at 1 Glanaber Terrace, Barmouth, and he would always retain contact with North Wales. However, in 1892, they moved south to the Thames valley, settling first at Cotton hall, Eton College. (It is unknown whether he was a visitor or a teacher.)
In the same year, he began to exhibit at the Royal Academy (showing 10 works there between 1892 and 1897). The Grants lived subsequently at 73 St Giles, Oxford (1893-94), The Dial Studio, Great Marlow (1895, alongside F Percy Wild RBA), and 2 Thames Street, Windsor (1897), and in 1896 a daughter, Phyllis, was born. Grant also became a member of the Oxford Society of Artists.
1895 may be considered Grant’s annus mirabilis. In that year, he was elected to the Royal Society of British Artists, which, in his short career, would become his main showcase (with 24 of his works appearing in its exhibitions). His work was also shown to Queen Victoria and the Empress Frederick (the Queen’s eldest child, Victoria) at Windsor Castle, and the Queen and Princess Louise (her sixth child) each bought two. This royal patronage did not stop him from promoting Socialism at the Conway Literary and debating Society in the same year. Both Grant and his wife, Charlotte, contracted tuberculosis and soon became frail in health. His doctor advised that the family go abroad to Egypt, but instead they settled at the home of Grant’s elder sister, the widowed Mrs Florence Hague, in Shanklin, on the Isle of Wight. Charlotte died there early in 1899, and Carleton Grant followed her later the same year, dying on 30 November 1899. Their children, Kenneth and Phyllis, continued to live with Florence and her son, Douglas Carleton Hague.