Henry Leopold Richter was born in Plumenau, a province of Moravia in the Austrian Empire, on October 22, 1870. He was the son of Heinrich Christian Richter (born in 1818 Neiden, Saxony) and Frances Kalibis. H. C. Richter was one of the top brewers in Germany. In his early years, Henry was given a violin and lessons, and enjoyed music throughout his life. In 1883 the family moved to Vienna, where young Henry attended high school. Henry did well in school and was awarded a scholarship (in art and mathematics) but was not able to take advantage of it as the family moved away. During the family moves around the area, Henry had several apprentice jobs, and moved around the area becoming fluent in six languages, however English was not one of these languages.
Around 1887 the family emigrated to the United States and settled in Chicago. The senior Mr. Richter passed away a couple of years later and Henry had to support the family. He went to night school to learn English and he became a US citizen in 1894. He took a series of labor type jobs, and in the process learned art to make paintings from photographs while working for a commercial art company.
Henry attended an Art Academy, which became the Chicago Art Institute. He studied privately with E. A. Burbank, a well known artist who painted portraits of Native Americans. His painting went well, and in 1904 he opened a studio and exhibited his work widely. Due to favorable reviews in the press, Henry was offered a teaching position in the Normal School of Colorado at Gunnison (which became Western State College and later Western State Colorado University) in 1911 as their first art professor. When arriving, the Normal School was short of funds and staff, so Henry taught art, German, and the violin. He served as first violin in the College orchestra. Henry painted several large murals for his classroom, which have been restored and are displayed in WSCU's Leslie Savage Library.
Henry took a leave of absence in 1913-14 for more study in Europe with Professor Knirr at his private school in Munich. He cut his time short, returning to the US in 1914, and the day he arrived in New York, war was declared. He returned to his Gunnison teaching position, and quickly had several exhibitions of the new works he had painted in Europe.
In 1915 he married Catherine Moore Richter, who was from Grand Junction, Colorado.
Henry and Catherine painting in the Colorado mountains on their honeymoon in 1915
After they were married, they lived in the old La Veta Hotel in Gunnison. After a year of very little for Catherine to do, and Henry with little time to paint, she asked to take over his teaching responsibility, giving her husband the time to paint. He took extensive sketching trips around Gunnison area, and was known particularly for his paintings of snow scenes.
In 1919 the Richters took teaching positions at Drake University in Des Moines, Iowa. Henry worked in the college of Fine Arts and Catherine taught in the College of Education. After a short time, the lure of the West called them and they moved to Long Beach, CA, in 1920. Catherine had a teaching position at Polytechnic High School and Henry took a number of private pupils, painted, and taught art in night school at Poly High. Incidentally he was ill one evening, and canceled his class on the evening of the 1933 earthquake. His classroom was demolished, fortunately empty of teacher and pupils.
The family which now included Henry Jr. went to Europe in 1930 for a sketching trip which resulted in
many fine paintings. The trip was cut short to avoid the growing Spanish revolution. The family was soon joined by daughter Elsa, and moved in 1939 to the country type setting in Rolling Hills, in the southwest portion of the Los Angeles Basin. There Henry Sr. had a number of private pupils, painted, and exhibited extensively throughout Southern California, including Laguna Beach. He was well known for his desert scene paintings. Henry L. Richter, Sr., passed away in 1960, just short of 90 years of age.
Henry's prolific career produced hundreds of paintings in both oil and watercolor of European scenes, Colorado mountain landscapes, California landscapes and desert scenes, and portraits.