National Library of Australia

W.B. Gould’s Sketchbook of Fishes

William Buelow Gould (1801–1853)Sketchbook of Fishes in Macquarie Harbour c.1832

bound volume of watercolours on paper; 23.4 x 19.0cm

Allport Library and Museum of Fine Arts, State Library of Tasmania
Sketchbook of Fishes in Macquarie Harbour c.1832

For a time, Hobart’s only artist was a convict, William Buelow Gould (1801–1853).

A porcelain painter from Liverpool, Gould was transported to Van Diemen’s Land in 1827 for stealing ‘colours’.

Gould’s paintings provide a window onto early life in the colony. His exquisite Sketchbook of Fish, a collection of 35 watercolours featuring fish and shellfish, highlights his outstanding artistic abilities at that time.

In 1832, after committing several offences, he was sentenced to Macquarie Harbour, where he was assigned to work as a house servant for Dr William de Little.

De Little, a student of natural history, provided the impetus for the Sketchbook of Fishes in Macquarie Harbour, asking Gould to paint subjects he had collected from the beaches.

George Augustus Robinson (1788–1866), the colony’s official ’Protector‘ of Aboriginal people, also invited Gould to paint several studies for him, including drawings and portraits of Aboriginal people.

After Gould was given his certificate of freedom at Port Arthur in 1835, painting became his only source of income. He turned to drink, however, and his paintings never reached the standard of his earlier work.