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William Bustard (1894–1973)

by Raoul Mellish

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William Bustard, c.1923

William Bustard, c.1923

State Library of Queensland, 109438

William Bustard (1894-1973), painter, stained-glass artist and book-illustrator, was born on 18 April 1894 at Terrington, Yorkshire, England, son of William Bustard, police constable, and his wife Mary, née Harrison. From the School of Science and Art, Scarborough, he won a scholarship to the Battersea Polytechnic and Putney School of Art in London; he later attended the Slade School of Art. He learned stained-glass techniques under James Powell of Whitefriars, London, and worked in cathedrals in England, Ireland and the United States of America. After exhibiting at the Royal Academy in 1915, he enlisted in the Royal Army Medical Corps on 23 August, became a corporal on 25 June 1916 and served in Salonika, Greece, to November 1917, then in Italy to June 1918. Posted to an officer cadet battalion in October, he was commissioned a reserve second lieutenant in the East Yorkshire Regiment after demobilization on 13 February 1919. He then took a refresher course in art at Oxford and helped repair mediaeval stained-glass in Belgium and France.

Bustard had married Lily Whitmore at Malton, Yorkshire, on 20 October 1918, and in 1921 they migrated to Queensland. He taught art half time at the Central Technical College, Brisbane, from 1924 to 1933, and became a life member of the Royal Queensland Art Society and its president in 1932. A foundation member of the board of trustees of the Queensland Art Gallery in 1931-37 and chairman of the gallery's art advisory committee, he resented conservatism on the board and resigned in disgust.

Windows by Bustard are in St John's Church of England Cathedral, St Stephen's Catholic Cathedral, Ann Street Presbyterian Church and the City Hall in Brisbane; an important group of forty-nine is in St Augustine's Church of England, Hamilton, and others are at Rockhampton, Southport and Coolangatta. Of his many windows elsewhere in Australia, the most impressive is the memorial in the Catholic Star of the Sea Cathedral, Darwin, to those who died in the Japanese air raid in 1942. Through his personal insistence on strong supports, the window remained undamaged in the 1974 cyclone. In World War II he had served in the Royal Australian Air Force, camouflaging installations.

Editions of Robinson Crusoe and Treasure Island illustrated by Bustard were published in 1949 and 1956; a copy of the former was presented to Queen Elizabeth on her visit to Brisbane in 1954. Paintings by him are in the Queensland Art Gallery, the Australian War Memorial, Canberra, and in private collections.

Remembered by his contemporaries as a kindly, jovial Bohemian with a touch of the larrikin at times, Bustard was respected as 'a fluent painter', 'Bill the Swift'. He envied a musical brother, though he performed creditably himself on piano, violin and accordion and was a regular attendant at concerts. Survived by a daughter, he died at Labrador, Queensland, on 24 August 1973, and was cremated with Church of England rites.

Select Bibliography

  • V. Lahey, Art in Queensland, 1859-1959 (Brisb, 1959)
  • W. Bustard papers (National Library of Australia)
  • biographical files (Queensland Art Gallery)
  • SP110/2-42/28/2298 (National Archives of Australia)
  • private information.

Citation details

Raoul Mellish, 'Bustard, William (1894–1973)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 1979, accessed online 30 May 2024.

This article was published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 7, (Melbourne University Press), 1979

View the front pages for Volume 7

© Copyright Australian Dictionary of Biography, 2006-2024

William Bustard, c.1923

William Bustard, c.1923

State Library of Queensland, 109438

Life Summary [details]


18 April, 1894
Terrington, Yorkshire, England


24 August, 1973 (aged 79)
Labrador, Queensland, Australia

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