Sunday, 19 September 2010

William Westall by Robert Westall

Sketch of the Life of the late William Westall A.R.A (by) Robert Westall Feby 1850.

The original Manuscript (Ms) is reproduced in standard type. Rex Reinits completed a typed transcript of the Ms. He adds and also excludes some material as indicated. The National Library of Australia has the Reinits transcript.
Additional material was added in the published article in the ‘Art Journal’, edited by George Virtue, April 1850 pp 94/95. These words are in italics. Words were also excluded from the original by the ‘Art Journal’ and are in brackets( ). Other matters are indicated in bold type between brackets < >. In addition Robert Westall himself crosses out passages as indicated by underling. The ‘Art Journal’ includes a comment by John Landseer A.R.A., father of Sir Edwin Landseer, who comments : The following memoir of this accomplished artist has been drawn up by his son Mr Robert Westall, who is himself a student of the Arts.

Robert Westall starts the memoir with confidence but he soon begins to falter. The writing is haphazard and includes words on the back of pages. There are a few muddled sections, some unreadable, which must have presented problems for the editor of the ‘Art Journal’. No doubt Robert, distressed by his father’s death, and trying to meet a deadline had a sympathetic editor to assist him.

As a primary source on William Westall’s life it provides much useful information and close study is justified. I have sought to avoid error but cannot be certain I have succeeded

Richard J. Westall

William Westall (Esq) A.R.A. was born at Hertford, October 12, 1781, and died in London Jany 22nd 1850, in the sixty-ninth year of his age. His parents were of Norwich families, but after residing in that city for several years, they removed for some time to Hertford, and finally came to London and its vicinity, Sydenham and Hampstead,where (he resided during his youth) his earlier years were passed.

Like most of those who have attained to professional honours, He he displayed a great passion for drawing when very young, having frequently related that he used to run away from school for the purpose of making sketches from nature. His (youthful) early studies were pursued under the care of his elder brother, the late Richard Westall (Esq) R.A., then at the height of his fame.

Mr W. Westall’s professional (career) engagements commenced early in life, and (from) under the following circumstances. The late William Daniell R.A., who had previously been in India, received the appointment of landscape draughtsman (to), on a voyage of discovery then about to proceed to Australia in (1801) , under Captain Flinders in H.M.S. Investigator. From this appointment Mr Daniell eventually withdrew in consequence of an engagement with Mr Westall’s oldest sister (, Mary,) who he afterwards married. On receiving an intimation of his withdrawl, the
Government applied to the President of the Royal Academy to recommend one of their students. Westall had entered as a probationer in the schools of the Royal Academy, but had not become a qualified student, when he was recommended to the Government by (Mr) the President West, <’Art Journal’ has brackets around West>, who had (been struck by) noticed his remarkable talent and aptitude (and he at once received his) for the appointment which he at once received, (al)though not nineteen years of age. (The objects of this voyage were the survey of the southern coast and the discovery of the then unknown position, now called South Australia and the exploration of the Gulf of Carpentaria and the North and N.Eastern and Western coasts of that continent) were the discovery of the then unknown country of the continents of Australia. Sent to examine the coasts of New Holland.

(Although one of the youngest persons in the vessel and very youthful in appearance from his fair and ruddy complexion, yet Mr W proved to have as great powers of endurance) enduring the intense heat of the various tropical climates which he visited particularly the Gulf of Carpentaria, the survey of which was found the most trying part of the voyage as most of his shipmates.

One of the most remarkable proofs of young Westall’s powers of enduring fatigue and of his enthusiasm for his art, was shewn (sic) in an expedition to the summit of a mountain near Port Bowen on the N. Eastern coast of Australia. Captn Flinders proposed that a large party should set off and whoever first reached the summit should have the honour of its being named after him. Mr W. was the first who gained the summit, though Captn Flinders soon followed, but so exhausted with fatigue that he threw himself on to the ground and fell into a deep sleep from which he was not aroused for several hours. In the mean time, struck with astonishment at the magnificent prospect which lay beneath him, comprising Broad Sound and Shoalwater Bay, with an horizon of sea, extending beyond the most distant of the Northumberland Isles which lay northwards, Mr Westall, notwithstanding his fatiguing climb commenced sketching and was engaged for three hours in depicting the splendid panorama at the end of which time, the grateful scent arising from the boiling pot, the rest of the far-lagging party having joined them, somewhat checked his enthusiasm. But the sketch produced was one of the most elaborate and was said by Flinders to comprise one of the most important discoveries made in the course of the voyage. The mountain was subsequently named after Mr Westall and a picture is now in the possession of the Admiralty, of this subject.The sketch produced was one of the most elaborate which he made in the course of the voyage. The subject of this sketch The subject was is embodied in a picture now in the possession of the Admiralty.)

After (their being arduously engaged for nearly two years) the expedition had been arduously employed for nearly two years, the Investigator was condemned as (unseaworthy), not sea-worthy, and was left at Port Jackson, while Mr Westall and most of his fellow-voyagers were shipped on board HMS Porpoise, under the command of their late First Lieutenant, Fowler, for the purpose of returning to England. (But) wWhile (endeavouring to find a passage through the Great Barrier Reef,)<> on the N.Eastern coast of Australia) making their way towards Torres Straits accompanied by two Indiamen they had the misfortune to be shipwrecked on a (small) coral reef considerably to the Eastward of the Great Barrier Reef , on the north eastern coast of Australia, (which catastrophe was also shared by an accompanying vessel the Cato) their companion, the Cato. Happily the ship’s companies were saved and also the provisions and stores of the Porpoise, with most of Mr Westall’s valuable collection of sketches and drawings (though many of them were sadly mutilated. As young Franklin and his fellow midshipmen, wishing to enliven the dull monotony of their time after the wreck, amused themselves by driving the remnant of the live stock over the sketches whilst spread out on the sand for the purpose of being dried.)

And After a residence of eight weeks upon a small coral reef bank having been basely/hastily deserted and left to their fate without any offer of assistance by the Commander of the accompanying vessel, Bridgewater a vessel sailing in their company. They were (rescued) taken off by some vessels sent from Port Jackson, (to which port) Captain Flinders (having) had courageously returned (to the colony) in an open boat, a distance of 250 leagues.

(A remarkable instance (occurred on the reef) of an act of dishonesty committed at a time of great anxiety and danger, with many chances of discovery; a great uncertainty of ever having the power to gain any benefit from it, or and but a (in pencil) at least a very distant prospect and but a distant prospect of realizing pecuniary advantage from the commission of the act. A few days after their ship-wreck Mr W missed a silver pallet which he had gained when sixteen years of age a few years previously, in competition for drawing, at the Society of Arts. And as he did not again find that it, (again in pencil), he imagined that it had slipped from his pocket whilst asleep on the sand, and afterwards washed away or buried in the tide.

A few years after his return to England a pawnbroker called at his residence with the long lost relic, which came into his possession a short time previously through the medium of a man in the dress of a Marine, of whom he had purchased it. a man in a Marine’s dress had sold to him a short time previously. Struck by the coincidence of the well known name and aware that Mr Westall had travelled he concluded that he must Mr W might have been its former possessor, honourably restored it to its rightful owner.

A marine or some other of the shipwrecked people had evidently stolen or picked up the medal and notwithstanding the awful uncertainty of their position, had the temerity to keep it in contemplation of future gain.

The vessel(s) which rescued (them from their dreary situation), a part of the shipwrecked crew from their dreary situation, (were) was the Cumberland schooner, of twenty-nine tons burden. (In this cockleshell of a boat Flinders, spurred by his anxiety to return to England (for the purpose of obtaining a proper vessel in which to continue on the survey with his usual daring, determined to attempt the homeward voyage, as no other vessel could at that/this time could be spared from the infant colony.) There was also another small schooner, at the service of any of the party who wished to return to Port Jackson. And the ship Rolla, fortunately bound to China, the commander of which vessel agreed to take off any who were willing to join him (was very eager then to take the Party off the Reef) The ship Rolla, bound for China, took the rest of the party off the reef.

{On leaving the reef} Mr Westall went in the Rolla to China and enriched his folio with many sketches of that interesting country. While in China he fortunately obtained permission to go up the river above Canton, with an expedition of scientific gentlemen. On one occasion whilst sketching in an (Island) island garden a Mandarin barge landed a party of native ladies and gentlemen or rank. They went to an open summer house, and learning that a foreigner was in the grounds desired him to be sent for. When introduced to the party he was looked upon with great curiosity,
the ladies, in particular, minutely examining his attire and laughed heartily at its novelty, especially his tail coat which attracted more than ordinary interest.

Although, at the time, he felt abashed at being thus (displayed) “exhibited”, yet the scene made a lasting impression on his mind; and, on retiring (while the party refreshed themselves with music and singing) he made a sketch of the subject before him. The extreme beauty and delicacy of the females and the richness of their costumes, combined with a charming peep of the Canton river and the magnificent exotic trees and plants of the garden, - conspicuous amongst them, the feathery bamboo and the (ariel) lofty palm garlanded with a wild underwood(s) of the richest fruits and flowers – formed a composition which could scarcely be exceeded in loveliness. (On) Of this (subject) incident he afterwards painted a large picture which was exhibited at the Royal Academy in 1814 and within the last few years hung in the Exhibition Rooms of the Pantheon – a smaller duplicate was in the possession of the late Mr Loddiges of Hackney.

After a residence of some months in Canton Mr Westall secured a passage to India in one of the China fleet and witnessed the renowned action in the Straits of Malacca, where Admiral Linois and (all his force were beaten off) the whole of his force was beaten off by a fleet of British merchantmen,(commanded by Sir Nathaniel Dance). Mr Westall’s love of variety determined him, on his arrival at Bombay, to undertake a journey into the neighbouring mountains of (the) Mahratta country(.) , (F)for which purpose he obtained a passport from (his Grace the Duke of Wellington) Sir Arthur Wellesley now the Duke of Wellington, (then Sir Arthur Wellesley) Commander of the Indian Forces(.) at that time. (While) Whilst among the magnificent mountains of the Boa Ghaut, he met the Indian army, soon after the battle of Assaye and received a kind (and urgent) invitation from Sir Arthur Wellesley to accompany the army to (Seringpatan) Seringatan , which advantageous offer he declined, (feeling a great anxiety to return to his native land) which advantageous offer he declined, to his deep regret in after life; feeling, at the time, a great anxiety to return to his native land, more especially as a report had been spread by the Capt(n)ain of the Bridgewater (in India) that the whole of the ships’ companies
Of the Porpoise and Cato (had been) were lost. Mr W(estall) was the first person to contradict the report at Bombay.

During his expedition into the interior (Mr W beheld) he witnessed the most frightful ravages caused by a famine and drought(.) ; (H)he was always much affected when alluding, in after life, to the horrors he here beheld. The perishing natives poured from the Upper countr(ies)y , (towards the metropolis) and lay along the roads perishing by thousands, the living, dying and (the) dead intermingled in aw(e)ful companionship.The dogs were frequently disturbed from the half devoured remains of their late masters. On more than one occasion when the gasping sufferers held out their trembling hands, for a draught of water(,) to assuage their agony they grasped the proffered cup with a dying avidity, and drain(ed)ing it to the last drop (and) instantly expired, their famine struck features brighten(ed)ing with a gleam of delight.

When in the mountains, he came upon a family of natives, reduced to the last stage of destitution, consisting of a man, his wife, and his only remaining son, several (other) children having perished. With the hopes of saving their own and their son’s life they offered him (as a slave) to Mr Westall’s chief servant and an agreement was ratified, the principal articles of the bargain consisting of the rare happiness of a substantial meal and a few pounds of rice. (The half famished youth rapidly improved in appearance from the good fare he enjoyed and returned Mr W’s kindness with every symptom of gratitude.)

On their return to the coast, opposite Bombay Island(s) the baggage and servants were sent on board a vessel to be taken to the (T)town, Mr Westall and the new slave alone remaining ashore. Before stepping into the boat he put a previously formed project into effect – drew some money from his pocket and putting it into the young man’s hand, pointed to his native mountains. The language of nature was sufficient (-) , with tears of joy and a look of astonishment and deep gratitude, the youth threw himself on the ground and kissed his benefactor’s feet; then with the swiftness of a deer, darted towards his home and was out of sight in a few minutes. In the mean time his purchaser, standing on the deck of the vessel, looked at the scene with (horror) dismay, unable to interfere, contemplating the serious loss he had sustained, of (an able slave, who would have made a good bargain) a fine young man whose value would have been justly appreciated in the slave market.; (B)but soon consoled himself with the prospect of making up the deficiency by the more ordinary mode of fleecing his master(’s pocket).

(In the years 1817 & 24 he exhibited two subjects of the Mahratta mountains, with the Indian army winding down the extraordinary passes.)

(After a short sojourning amongst the mountains, and witnessing the frightful ravages made in the country by a dreadful famine and drought – over this section is written in pencil See Note, this is the much expanded account above)
After visiting and making elaborate drawings of the wonderful excavated temples of Kurlee and Elephanta, and of other interesting objects
Soon after his return (to England) finding (that) his services were not immediately required in the publication of (Flinders’ voyage) the late voyage he revisited Madeira, at which (I)island the Investigator had made a stay of three days on the outward voyage. On this occasion , the latter occasion the scientific gentlemen made an expedition towards Pico Ruivo, (the loftiest peak of this mountainous island) into the interior(.) and young (Young) Westall, by the most indefatigable exertions, produced a number of sketches of the enchanting scenery; but on their leaving the island, the native boat they had hired to take to the vessel (,) was upset in the surf (as they always supposed suspected) purposely, by the boatmen, and in consequence Westall was nearly drowned.

The fatigue and exposure of the (journey) voyage,
combined with the effects of the accident and his distress and anxiety at losing the fruits of so much toil, brought on a (C)coup de (S)soliel which nearly terminated his existence. But the picturesque beauty of the (I)island had so enchanted him that he resolved his first days of independ(a)ence should be spent there(.) ; (A)and (rarely is it that as youthful resolution is so entirely fulfilled.) in accordance with this determination,(H)he obtained a passage to Madeira in the summer of 1805, and carried his early (determination) resolution into (complete fruition) effect.

He was treated with great kindness by the residents, particularly (Joseph) Mr Pringle (Esq), the Consul, (and Mr and Mrs Lynch,) Lady Georgeiana and Mr Eliot, afterwards Earl St Jermaine, and their family. While making those selections of (the) scenery which he especially loved, he executed, in the way of business and profit, drawings and paintings of the (Q)quintas/(residences) villas, of the planters and merchants [,] ; and with the money so obtained he went to the West India Islands.
He always spoke of his residence in Madeira as one of the most delightful periods of his life.

During a (residence) stay of a few months in Jamaica Mr Westall added innumerable (subjects) drawings of this interesting island to his large collection of sketches of foreign scenery.

After his return (from Jamaica Mr Westall) to England he painted (subjects of) various pictures of foreign scenery; and in 1808, having accumulated a considerable number of water-colour drawings of views in China, India, India and Madeira, he opened an exhibition in Brook Street, (which) but it did not (answer) realise his expectations.

In 1810, Captain Flinders arrived in England, having been released from his long and cruel confinement in the (Island) Isle of Mauritius, where he was detained, on his putting into Port Louis in his little vessel, (while) on his way (to England after leaving the reef.) home from Wreck Reef. The publication of the voyage necessarily delayed until this period, was now proceeded with, and Mr Westall was for a considerable time engaged in preparing his sketches and drawings for engravings; - and also in painting pictures, by command of the Lords Commissioners of the Admiralty, of the most important discoveries and incidents connected with the voyage. These were A View of King George Sound, [A note indicates that these compromised: King George Sound] Port Lincoln, Port Jackson, Port Bowen, on the (N)north-(E)astern (coast and a view from the summit of Mount Westall) two views in the Gulf of Carpentaria; a scene in Kangaroo Island, and a view from the summit of Mount Westall. (In Kangaroo Islands, and the Gulf of Carpentaria.) [It adds that] T [t]he view(s) of Port[ort] Bowen and of the Seaforth’s Isles, in the Gulf of Carpentaria, were exhibited (Several of these pictures were exhibited in the old rooms of the Royal Academy at Somerset House) in 1812 at the Royal Academy
And attracted great attention from their novelty. They were all views of places for the most part the first time visited by Europeans. In the foregrounds were displayed the magnificent and georgeous foliage and flora of (these tropical climates,) this country,
(their character) painted with (botanical precision and correctness of nature,) great attention to their botanical character. (and with a brilliancy of colouring scarcely ever before seen.)

On his final settlement in England he was employed by many publishers – (among the rest in – by Ackermann) in illustrating their works, amongst the rest by Ackermann, in 1813, who was getting up (an) embellished edition(s) of the History of the Two Universities, and (the) other public schools. In (these) this commission he was united with (Mr) Messrs. Uwins, (Mr) F. Mcackenkie, (Mr) F. Nash and Augustus Pugin.

In 1811 Mr Westall paid his first visit to the Lake country, and stopped on his way to make a sketch of Sedbergh for Prof Inman (with whom he became acquainted at Port Jackson, Prof I having gone out as astronomer to Flinders voyage but only in place of Mr Croxley, who left the expedition at the Cape in consequence of ill health. Pro I arrived at Port Jackson just before the Investigator was condemned and did not join the expedition) <> whom he knew at Port Jackson, and was fellow passenger with whom he was a fellow passenger in the Rolla to China. Professor
Had gone out as an astronomer to Flinders’ (voyage) expedition, but only arrived at Port Jackson just before the voyage was abandoned. From (Prof Inman) him (he) Mr Westall received a letter of introduction to the Rev William Stevens, Master of the Grammar School at Sedbergh, with whom and his family, he was afterwards united in closest friendship.

Mr Westall was so much charmed with the beauty of the (N)northern scenery that he resided at Keswick or (the) its neighbourhood, during part of every (winter) year, until(l) 1820, (when he married); he (and) afterwards frequently visited (it.) the Lake country.

While at Keswick he first became acquainted with (the late Robert ) Southey (Esq and the present Poet Laureate, W.) and Wordsworth, (Esq of Rydal Mount) and a friendship was cemented between them which only ceased with death which ended in an enduring friendship.

An accidental circumstance first introduced Mr Westall to the late Sir George and Lady Beaumont. ; (T)the latter, when going to replenish her stock of pencils at Mr Airey’s of Keswick, happened to see an unfinished (painting) picture of Indian scenery and on (e)inquiring the name of the artist who lodged at the house, immediately sent Mr Westall an invitation to dinner. Sir George Beaumont’s well known love of landscape painting led him to cultivate an intimacy, whichresulted in Mr Westall’s spending the greater part of two winters (1813 & 1814) at his seat, Coleorton in Leicestershire.

In 1812 (he) Mr Westall was elected an Associate of the Royal Academy, having (for several years) long previously been a (M)member of the Wateer Colour Society.

(In 1815) After having resided for some years at Dulwich, (Mr W) he paid a visit, in 1815, to Mr Stevens, at Sedbergh, where he became acquainted with Mr Stevens’ beloved and venerable friend, the Rev Richard Sedgwick (of Dent,) whose youngest daughter became (his wife) the wife of Mr Westall in 1820.

In 1816 he engraved, in aquatint, a work of the (celebrated) noted caves in Chaple le Dale, near Ingleborough; Yordas Cave , and Gordale Scar, near Malham, in Yorkshire. The following year,in company with Mr Mackenzie, he made a series of Rivaulx, Byland, and various other (A)abbeys and celebrated edifices in the (N)north of England, some of which were introduced by Dr Whitaker in History of Yorkshire. About this time he put a long-formed project (resolution) into effect, of engraving in aquatint a series of the Lake country, which he continued to increase in number for many (successive) years.

In 1832, (W)when on avisit to his brother-in-law,the Rev James Sedgwick, at the Isle of Wight he commenced his work of that island.

The number and works he had undertaken occupied so much time that from this period he had little leisure for contributing to the exhibition(s) of the Royal Academy. During (a lapse of) several years the only picture he exhibited was a view of, Norwich painted (in 1840), for his brother-in-law, the Rev Professor Adam Sedgwick.

His publications were afterwards increased by the addition of two several works (namely); Ragland Castle in 1842 in Monmouthshire; Kirkstall Abbey, near Leeds; Fountains Abbey (and Studley Park commenced in) Studley Park etc.

It is singular that (though so great a traveller yet)
Mr Westall, although so great a traveller should never have landed on the Continent of Europe until the (Spring of 1847, when he took a trip to Paris, with which city and its environs he was (much pleased) as may well be imagined, much delighted.

(Although blessed in early youth with a strong and vigorous constitution his health was for many years much broken a premature old age was brought on by his exposure and sufferings when abroad. In the autumn of 1847 he met with a very severe accident from the violent serious effects of which he never fully recovered his strength)

A few years after his marriage he purchased a residence at St Johns Wood, where he lived resided until his death (the remainder of his life. (T)the latter part of his life was spent) with the exception an (interruption) intermission of seven years, having removed there (to the southern side of London) for the convenience of a son who was a pupil with Sir John and Mr George Rennie (Esqrs), the (Engineers) celebrated engineers; he had only returned to his favourite (spot) home about a year and a half (at his decease). Although blessed in early youth with a strong constitution, a premature old age was brought on by his exposure and sufferings when abroad.

In the autumn of 1847 Mr Westall met with a very severe accident, not only breaking his left arm, but receiving serious internal injuries. From the effects of this he never recovered; and during the last winter, a succession of severe colds terminated in a bronchial attack, accompanied by dropsy, which carried him off after a few weeks of suffering. Besides the pictures already mentioned, Mr Westall painted few others of any consequence; for finding that his efforts were not appreciated by the public, he sacrificed his name and fame to the duty of providing for the welfare of his family. Therefore he has often been heard to say, “he was reduced to the necessity of giving up his early hopes of fame, for a trade,” as he termed his engravings and publications.

The result of this He found On finding that his efforts were not appreciated by the public, and sacrifice(ing)(ed) his name and fame to the duty of providing for the welfare of his family.

Therefore as he has been heard to say that he was reduced to the necessity of giving up his early hopes of fame for a trade as he termed his engravings and publications.

The principal works exhibited at the Royal Academy were the following –
1813 “A View of St Paul’s from Bankside,” also a “Sunrise,” with Bambro’ Castle.
1814 “Richmond – Yorkshire,” with the view of the Mandarin’s garden.
1815 Several Views of Cambridege.
1826 “A view of Cape Wilberforce,” in the Gulf of Carpentaria, with that singular phenomenon, a waterspout.
1827 “A view in the valley of St. Vincent – Madeira;” also several watercolour drawings, views in Jamaica (for the late Lord Sligo), China and India. In 1848, he exhibited his last great painting, “The Commencement of the Deluge”.

His last illness intercepted the progress of a painting of “Wreck-reef a few days after the loss of the Porpoise and Cato,” which he commenced a short timepreviously.

The following sketch of his character, as a painter, has been kindly furnished by Mr John Landseer, the engraver, A.R.A.

“The integrity and moral character of William Westall are unblemished; his manners were mild and unassuming, or as Goldsmith has it –
‘- gentle,complying,and bland;’
and his style as an artist partook of these elements, being chiefly remarkable for a combination of fidelity with amenity, and an entire absence of everything ostentatious, or too ambititious for the occasion. While his trees were characteristically varied (and his Australian and other exotic trees with a certain portion of botanical discrimination); and while his rocks and castles, and sacred caverns, were solemn and grand; his cottages were places of sheltered pastoral comfort. His colouring was chaste, and chiaroscuro harmonious – never flashing, or forced, or meretricious. The obtainment of fleeting popularity was quite out of his way: the artist was never obtruded before the demands of the subject; and hence Westall’s forte was rather landscape portraiture, than the treatment of ideal subjects; hence too, and from a corresponding want of critical discrimination on the part of the public, he was not, as a landscape painter – one, too, who had seen much more of the world than his academical brethren – duly appreciated, although justly valued by the judicious few. As instances may be mentioned, the apparent neglect of his Brook Street Exhibition, and the real neglect of rather a large picture from his hand, a grand mountain scene with a lofty waterfall; a “View among the Ghauts of Hindostan,”a picture possessing much of the charming grey aerial tone and just degraduation on which the early fame of Turner was founded: this picture long hung with far too little notice, against the walls of the Panteon exhibition room”

A bust of the late Mr Westall is now being executed by Mr E.J.Physick.

1 comment:

  1. i have aquired 2 pictures lincoln castle and cathedral.could u verify them if i send photos thanks