Thomas Watling

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Thomas Watling
Thomas Watling - A Direct North General View of Sydney Cove, 1794.jpg
A Direct North View of Sydney Cove, 1794
by Thomas Watling
Born19 September 1762
Dumfries, Scotland
OccupationLandscape and natural history artist, author and convict
  • Ham Watlin (father)

Thomas Watling (19 September 1762 - 1814?), was an early Australian painter and illustrator, notable for his natural history drawings and landscapes. [1]


Early life and education

Born in Dumfries, Scotland, he was raised by his maiden aunt, Marion Kirkpatrick, after both parents died in his infancy. Art featured in his education and he went on to form his own “academy” where he taught drawing to "Ladies and Gentlemen". [2] In Glasgow he worked briefly as a coach and chaise painter before being charged with forgery, in Dumfries on 27 November 1788. [1]

Dumfries town in Scotland

Dumfries is a market town and former royal burgh within the Dumfries and Galloway council area of Scotland. It is located near the mouth of the River Nith into the Solway Firth. Dumfries is the traditional county town of the historic county of Dumfriesshire. Dumfries is nicknamed Queen of the South. People from Dumfries are known colloquially in the Scots language as Doonhamers. The nickname has also given name to the town's professional football club.

Conviction and transportation to New South Wales

Watling was charged with having forged 1 guinea promissory notes of the Bank of Scotland, and sentenced to fourteen years' transportation to New South Wales on 14 April 1789. He was held at Plymouth in the prison ship Dunkirk, before being transferred to the convict transport Pitt. [2] Departing on the Pitt with 410 convicts in July 1791, Watling escaped while docked at Cape Town. [1] He was later arrested and transferred to the East Indiaman Royal Admiral, finally arriving in Sydney on 7 October 1792. [1]

New South Wales State of Australia

New South Wales is a state on the east coast of Australia. It borders Queensland to the north, Victoria to the south, and South Australia to the west. Its coast borders the Tasman Sea to the east. The Australian Capital Territory is an enclave within the state. New South Wales' state capital is Sydney, which is also Australia's most populous city. In September 2018, the population of New South Wales was over 8 million, making it Australia's most populous state. Just under two-thirds of the state's population, 5.1 million, live in the Greater Sydney area. Inhabitants of New South Wales are referred to as New South Welshmen.

East Indiaman general name for any ship operating under charter or license to any of the East India Companies

East Indiaman was a general name for any sailing ship operating under charter or licence to any of the East India Companies of the major European trading powers of the 17th through the 19th centuries. The term is used to refer to vessels belonging to the Danish, Dutch (Oostindiëvaarder), English, French, Portuguese, or Swedish (ostindiefarare) East India companies.

Royal Admiral was an East Indiaman, launched in 1777 on the River Thames. She made eight trips for the East India Company (EIC) before she was sold. She then continued to trade. She made two trips carrying convicts from England to Australia, one as an East Indiaman in 1791, and a second in 1800. On this second voyage as a convict transport she was present at a notable naval action.


Artist in New South Wales

Thomas Watling is thought to be the first professional artist to arrive in New South Wales. [3]

In Sydney Watling worked with John White, the colony's Surgeon General, copying natural history illustrations. In 1796 he was given a conditional pardon by the colony's second governor, John Hunter, made absolute on 5 April 1797. [1]

John White (surgeon) English surgeon and botanical collector

John White was an Irish surgeon and botanical collector.

Thomas Watling painted many of the early colonial pictures of Australia and made a prolific number of sketches of birds, fish, mammals, plants, landscapes and Aboriginal people. [3] [1]

One painting that was attributed to him, A direct north general view of Sydney Cove 1794, is the earliest known oil painting of Sydney. [3] The identity of the artist of this oil painting has long been debated. The inscription on the reverse clearly identifies Watling, however, he is not known to have painted in oils. The canvas is dated 1794 and there is no record of any colonial artist using oils until 1812, by which time Watling had received a pardon and returned to Britain. [3] It is now believed this work was painted in Britain, possibly based on sketches made by Watling in Sydney. [4] [1] This work now belongs to the Dixson Gallery, State Library of New South Wales. [5] [4]

See also

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  1. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 Rienits, Rex. "Thomas Watling (1762-?)". Australian Dictionary of Biography. Retrieved 1 February 2018.
  2. 1 2 Bull, Gordon. "Thomas Watling b. 1762". Design & Art Australia Online. Retrieved 2 February 2018.
  3. 1 2 3 4 Farthing, Stephen, ed. (2011). "1001 paintings you must see before you die". State Library of New South Wales Catalogue. ABC Books. Retrieved 2 February 2018.
  4. 1 2 Watling, Thomas (1794). "A direct north general view of Sydney Cove". Manuscripts, Oral History and Pictures Catalogue, State Library of New South Wales. Retrieved 2 February 2018.
  5. McCormick, Tim (1987). First views of Australia: a history of early Australia. Chippendale, NSW: David Ell Press in association with Longueville Publications. ISBN   0908197721.

Further reading