William Westall (1781 - 1850)

Westall was a landscape artist born at Hertford, England. He was taught to draw by his elder half-brother Richard (1765-1836), a water-colour painter, Royal Academician and painting teacher to Princess Victoria. In 1799 he was admitted to the Royal Academy School, where he was studying when at 19 he was appointed landscape artist with Matthew Flinders’ Investigator expedition to Australia, at a salary of 300 guineas. During the voyage he made a large number of pencil-and-wash landscapes in places visited by the Investigator and a series of coast profiles in pencil. When the Porpoise ran aground on Wreck Reef his sketches were ‘wetted and partly destroyed‘ and, while Westall travelled in China, the drawings, regarded as part of the official record of the voyage, were taken by Lieutenant Robert Fowler to England. There, at the suggestion of Sir Joseph Banks, they were handed to Richard Westall to be ‘restored to a proper state’.

After spending some time in China and India Westall returned to London in February 1805 and sought access to the sketches to paint a picture for exhibition at the Royal Academy and showed a View of the Bay of Pines at the academy later in the year. In the summer of 1805 Westall went to Madeira and twelve months later to Jamaica. After returning to England he painted a series of water-colour views of the places he had visited and these were shown in a Brook Street gallery and at the Associated Artists’ exhibition in 1808. Later he received commissions from the Admiralty to paint nine pictures to illustrate Flinders’ A Voyage to Terra Australis … (1814), and was engaged by several London publishers to paint water-colours to be reproduced as aquatints.


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