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Westall's view of Kangaroo Island
Title : Westall's view of Kangaroo Island Westall's view of Kangaroo Island
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Creator : Westall, William, 1781-1850
Source : Views of Australian scenery, pl. 11
Place Of Creation : London
Publisher : G. & W. Nicol
Date of creation : 1802
Additional Creator : Flinders, Matthew, 1774-1814
Format : Book
Catalogue record
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Description :

William Westall was the landscape artist on Matthew Flinders' expedition of 1801-1803 which explored the unknown coast of southern Australia. Westall's idyllic scene of Kangaroo Island shows emus, kangaroos and sea lions together on the shore. Behind them rise the steep hillsides heavily clothed in vegetation.

At this time there were no inhabitants on the island, though shortly after Flinders' and the French expedition led by Nicolas Baudin had arrived in Sydney in April and May 1802, sealers would arrive on the island to slaughter the large herds of seals for their skins. The Kangaroo Island dwarf emu was extinct by the time of the colonisation of South Australia in 1836.

William Westall was still a student at the Royal Academy when he was selected as the landscape artist for the Flinders' voyage of discovery. At 19 years of age, he was the youngest member of the scientific staff on the Investigator. Westall was born on 12 October 1781 at Hertford in England, and was taught drawing by his elder half-brother, an established and successful artist and teacher. It was expected that as the landscape artist to the expedition, Westall would paint landscapes and figures that would clearly delineate Australia and its inhabitants. He was also responsible for recording the coastal profiles that would benefit later navigators.

Westall's output for the southern Australian leg of the voyage was not as rich as might be expected for an artist on the 'unknown coast'. It has been said that he was not inspired by the drab Australian bush, and this can be seen in his sketches, which he frequently merged to produce something more picturesque. He certainly produced a greater body of work on the eastern and northern coasts.

When Flinders returned to England aboard the Porpoise, Westall returned with him, and some of his work was damaged in a wreck off the coast of Queensland. Westall decided to continue his return to England via China, while his drawings were taken on to England. He returned to England in 1805, prepared a painting for a Royal Academy exhibition, and later travelled to Madeira and Jamaica. He painted nine pictures for reproduction in Flinders' Voyage to Terra Australis (1814). In his later life, he exhibited his work from time to time, but was never a successful artist. He died on 20 January 1850.

Related names :

Flinders, Matthew, 1774-1814

Westall, William, 1781-1850

Period : Pre-1836
Region : Kangaroo Island
Further reading :

Westall, William, Drawings by William Westall, landscape artist on board H.M.S. Investigator during the circumnavigation of Australia by Captain Matthew Flinders, R.N., in 1801-1803 edited by T.M. Perry and Donald H. Simpson. London: Royal Commonwealth Society, 1962

The Encounter, 1802: art of the Flinders and Baudin voyages [compiled by] Sarah Thomas. Adelaide: Art Gallery of South Australia, 2002

Findlay, Elisabeth, Arcadian quest: William Westall's Australian sketches Parkes, A.C.T.: National Library of Australia, 1998

Flinders, Matthew, A voyage to Terra Australis ... Adelaide: Libraries Board of South Australia, 1966

Internet links :
Exhibitions and events :

State Library of South Australia: Mortlock Wing. Taking it to the edge August 2004-



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