Searching for the Witts family: Portrait deserves right home

David Trist with a self portrait of John Aston. Photo: Melinda Jane.
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A St Marys resident is trying to get a portrait returned to the right family.

Long time St Marys resident David Trist is in possession of a portrait of Louis Henry Witts painted by John Aston and is reaching out to see if any of the Witts family are still in the area.

John Aston, the painter, moved to Australia from England and was the Headmaster at Colyton Primary School, a role from which he retired in 1912.

Louis Henry Witts was born in Australia and was admitted as a teacher in 1879, and later starting from 1910 worked at a school in Wentworthville.

The painting is in Trist’s possession as Aston is the grandfather of his wife Betty.

Trist says it was common at the time for people to have portraits in their homes.

“There was no television and people recorded their forebears usually with a portrait and you would go into a house and there would be portraits on the walls,” Trist said.

Aston entered the portrait into the Archibald Prize competition in 1938 but unfortunately missed out on any accolades.

“He [Aston] got the portrait back and it’s been sitting around, and they all died so I ended up with a lot of stuff that I didn’t want to throw away,” Trist said.

“So, I thought I’d find the Witts family and the lady from the library kindly said she’d do a search and she found that one of the Witts [family] was a Headmaster at Wentworthville School and another one [was] Headmaster of Wallacia.

“But, this Mr Witts, I don’t know.”

There is little more information known about Witts other than he had four children: Eleanor (known as Nellie), Elmo, Hinton and Fanny.

Witts is known to have died in 1943.

The artist, Aston, was a very skilled artist who painted the portraits of many local community members for their family records. Aston died in 1953.

On behalf of John Aston, Trist is searching for any living members of the Witts family so he can return this family portrait.

For further information about the painting or to be put into contact with David Trist please email [email protected].

Emily Chate

Emily Chate joined The Western Weekender in 2024, and covers local news - primarily courts and politics. A graduate of the University of Wollongong, Emily has contributed to The Daily Telegraph and worked as a freelance journalist.

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