Thursday, February 18, 2010

William Westall
Regency Artist and Reluctant Adventurer

William Westall began his artistic career with a remarkable adventure. At age nineteen, after a comprehensive artistic education and a stint at the Royal Academy, he was given the post of figure and landscape artist to a great voyage of discovery. He travelled on the ship 'Investigator' under Matthew Flinders and worked with now-renowned botanist Robert Brown and botanical illustrator Ferdinand Bauer. They sailed from Madeira to Africa and ultimately to Australia, where he is honoured to this day as the first painter of Australian scenes. Much of his fame rests in his Australian work, though it is not without controversy, and he is well-known in that country.

Westall's Australian work is well-documented. The National Library of Australia holds much of the art and numerous journal articles have been written about him and his fellow scientists and explorers.

It is his later work in England, however, that interests me. He did not return to his homeland until 1804 due to shipwreck and detours through China and India. In 1811 he published 'Foreign Scenery' which was a compendium of the art of his travels. It did well and brought him to the attention of Rudolf Ackermann.

From that point of his career on, he did a great deal of work illustrating the towns, cities, schools and universities of Great Britain. He painted the Regency world as he found it, handsome, ordered and remarkably serene. It is a fascinating catalogue of the look of the Regency.

Westall's life and that of his half-brother Richard Westall is documented here by what appears to be their descendants.

Westall's work is scattered in galleries around the world. He is represented only sparsely on the Internet, and not at all for his work for Ackermann and for John Murray. I would love to see his later paintings and drawings collected as an illustration of the Regency world.

This list of works illustrated by Westall is from Wikisource

Flinders, Matthew (1814), A voyage to Terra Australis

Westall, William (1814), Views of Australian scenery

Ackermann, Rudolf (1816), History of Rugby School

Westall, William (1818), Views of the caves near Ingleton, Gordale Scar, and Malham Cove, in Yorkshire

Westall, William et al. (1822), Britannia Delineata

Ackermann, Rudolf (1825), Ackerman's Repository

Grindlay, Robert (1826–1830), Scenery, Costumes and Architecture of India

Murray, John Fisher (1828), A picturesque tour of the river Thames in its western course

Jaffray, James (1829), Graphic Illustrations of Warwickshire

Westall, William (1830), The landscape album, or, Great Britain illustrated.

I have used illustrations from to illustrate this blog as copyright-free versions of his work are not much available. This gallery is possibly the best source on-line to view Westall's work.

Next week, Ann Tracy Marr author of three Regency Fantasy books will be guest blogging with me. Please come back to visit with Ann!

I will be back in two weeks. 'Til then,


1 comment:

Richard Westall said...

I am currently working on the lives of Richard and William Westall. The website and my blog are both relevant. There you will see much more material about both artists. The work is on-going.
I was glad to see your blog - I wish I had some your expertise on layout etc.