W. B. Gould: artist and convict

William Buelow Gould (1801 – 1853) was an English artist convicted for stealing a coat and was sentenced to seven years of labour in Van Diemen’s Land (Tasmania). He constantly got into trouble, also in the penal colonies, and was regularly punished for offences such as drunkenness, petty theft and forgery.

His talent, however, got him assigned as a house servant to colonial surgeon Dr James Scott who made use of his abilities. Later he was also a servant of another amateur naturalist, Dr William de Little (“amateur” meaning something a little different then than now).

He painted still life, portraits, botanical specimen, native flora and fauna, sea life collected on the beaches and landscapes. He continued painting after having been granted his certificate of freedom in 1835, but the quality was faltering, and he seems to have spiralled down into poverty, drunkenness and prison sentences.

His work is greatly acclaimed, and his Gould’s sketchbook of fishes was recognised as a document of world significance by UNESCO in 2011.

My absolute favourite is the leafy sea dragon.

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