Richter was from London, the son of Henry James Richter, a noted artist of the period, who specialised in history paintings. His German grandfather, John Augustus was an artist and sculptor too. Henry Constantine described himself as a draughtsman and naturalist, as most of his work was in book illustration, and the illustration for John Gould’s books of natural history in particular.
Gould hired Richter in 1841 after the death of his wife Elizabeth. She had previously been the major artist and lithographer for Gould’s books but over the next 40 years Richter produced around 1600 images of birds and mammals for Gould, including his posthumous book ‘Birds of Asia’. Richter worked in London, rather than travelling with Gould and began his work by making lithographs from the watercolour drawings of birds made by Elizabeth Gould. When he had completed these book illustrations he continued by making own drawings from the skins of birds that John Gould and his assistants had collected in Australia, Asia, Europe and elsewhere. He would additionally have Gould’s sketches and written notes to work from. Richter also visited London’s Zoological Gardens regularly to observe particular bird species and check the accuracy of his drawings and verify the birds’ habits. Richter’s images obviously were a major part of the success of Gould’s books, and he left him £100 in his will.
By the 1881 census Gould is described as ‘living on his own means’ with two sisters and therefore, unusually, natural history illustration must have provided Richter with a reasonable financial independence.