By William Westall, landscape artist on board HMS Investigator during the circumnavigation of Australia by Captain Matthew Flinders.

SKU SF000713 Category


William Westall was landscape artist and figure draughtsman on HMS Investigator during Flinders’ great circumnavigation of Australia 1801 1803. At the age of only nineteen he was appointed by the Admiralty on the recommendation of Sir Joseph Banks. His brief was to accurately record the coastline and the people of Australia. To this end he produced some 140 drawings for the Admiralty, which were later used to create nine major oil paintings. Engravings of his paintings were used to illustrate the publication of the voyage in 1814. This delicate watercolour is a coastal profile showing a ship, probably Investigator, at anchor. The original pen and ink framing lines around the image indicate that it was originally part of his exhibition purposes. The work is similar to other Westall coastal profiles in the collection of the National Library of Australia, Canberra. Westall’s relatively small output from the voyage of the INVESTIGATOR (compared with Ferdinand Bauer’s output of 2,000 intricate sketches on the same voyage), makes any original drawing made in Australia by Westall very rare.

An old label on the backing board (at the 1990 sale) read: “Investigator in full sail off a hilly coastline, and to its left a much smaller ship. Lady Nelson and Investigator sailed together only for two months so we may say with certainty that the view represents the coast off Northern New South Wales or Southern Queensland”. According to Perry and Simpson, “this watercolour cannot be identified with any of the surviving coast profiles. Since it shows two ships, it presumably dates from the period when the Lady Nelson and Investigator were together, from 21 July to 18 October 1802, between Port Jackson and the Cumberland Islands”.

Additional information



William Westall


Paper, Watercolour