William Westall (1781-1850) was a landscape artist the youngest child of Benjamin Westall a Norwich brewer and the only child of Benjamin’s second wife Martha Harbord. William’s early drawing lessons were given to him by his half brother Richard, a Royal Academician and instructor in drawing and painting to Princess Victoria. In 1799 William was admitted to the Royal Academy Schools. Early in 1801, on the recommendation of Benjamin West, president of the Royal Academy, he was appointed landscape artist on Matthew Flinders expedition to Australia. During the voyage along the south, east and north coasts of Australia from 1801 to 1803, Westall produced pencil sketches of coastal profiles, landscapes and Aborigines and a small number of natural history subjects. When the Porpoise ran aground on Wreck Reef on the edge of the Great Barrier Reef, Westall’s drawings were ‘wetted and partly destroyed’ but were nevertheless forwarded to the Admiralty as part of the official record of the voyage. On their receipt in London, Sir Joseph Banks had them sent to Richard Westall to be ‘restored to a proper state’.
William Westall, meanwhile, had gone from Wreck Reef to China and India and did not return to London until 1805. He subsequently visited Madeira and Jamaica and showed watercolour view of these places in a Brook Street gallery and at the Associated Artists’ Exhibition in 1808. Early in 1811 Flinders collected Westall’s sketches from the Admiralty and, in conference with Westall and Joseph Banks, chose nine subjects for oil paintings, commissioned by the Admiralty to be engraved as illustrations for Flinders ‘Voyage to Terra Australis…’ (1814).These oil paintings now hang in Admiralty House, London.