Australian Dictionary of Biography

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William Buelow Gould (1801–1853)

by Henry Allport

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William Buelow Gould (1801-1853), artist, was born in Liverpool, England. He is said to have been a porcelain painter at Spode's factory, a pupil of William Mulready, R.A., and to have worked for Rudolph Ackermann in the Strand. By 1826 he was married with two children, and on 7 November of that year he was charged at Northampton quarter sessions with having by 'force of arms stolen one coat' and was sentenced to 'seven years beyond the seas'. He had a previous conviction for stealing 'colours'.

He arrived at Hobart Town in the Asia in December 1827 and was sent to work at the brickfields. His record in Van Diemen's Land was never good, frequent offences being stealing and drunkenness. In June 1829 he was sentenced to three years at Macquarie Harbour for passing a forged Derwent Bank note. He was sent in the brig Cyprus. While weather-bound in Recherche Bay half the convicts mutinied and took the brig. The other convicts, including Gould, were marooned with the officers. Gould was one of a party which went overland to obtain help. Lieutenant-Governor (Sir) George Arthur ameliorated the sentences of the obedient convicts, and Gould was assigned to Dr James Scott, colonial surgeon. While with Scott he painted botanical specimens which are perfect in technical detail. In 1832, after more offences, Gould was again sentenced to Macquarie Harbour where he painted many more exquisite water-colours of flowers, birds and fishes. His sketches of Macquarie Harbour itself provide a unique topographical record of the settlement. When the Macquarie Harbour penal settlement was abandoned Gould was sent to Port Arthur, where he received his certificate of freedom on 25 June 1835.

After working briefly for Henry Palmer, coachbuilder, of Launceston, he returned to Hobart, where in December 1836 he married Ann Reynolds. In the next years he painted many game, fish and flower studies in oils, some good, some indifferent. He became a confirmed drunkard and, between sentences, lived with his wife and family in abject poverty. He died on 11 December 1853 from natural causes at his home in Macquarie Street.

A self-portrait hangs in the Tasmanian Museum. Examples of his work are held by the Entally National House, Franklin House, the National Trust Home, the Narryna Folk Museum, the National Gallery of Victoria, the Queen Victoria Museum and Art Gallery of Launceston, the Tasmanian Museum and Art Gallery, and private owners.

Gould's Sketchbook of Fishes was inscribed on the UNESCO Australian Memory of the World Register on 1 April 2011.

Select Bibliography

  • H. Allport, Early Art in Tasmania (Hob, 1931)
  • F. Clune and P. R. Stephensen, Pirates of the Brig Cyprus (Lond, 1962)
  • E. R. Pretyman, ‘Macquarie Harbour Penal Settlement’, Papers and Proceedings (Tasmanian Historical Research Association), 1952, no 1
  • I. Mead, ‘William Buelow Gould: Convict Artist in Van Diemen's Land’, Papers and Proceedings of the Royal Society of Tasmania, vol 93, 1959, pp 81-89.

Additional Resources

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Citation details

Henry Allport, 'Gould, William Buelow (1801–1853)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 1966, accessed online 12 July 2024.

This article was published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 1, (Melbourne University Press), 1966

View the front pages for Volume 1

© Copyright Australian Dictionary of Biography, 2006-2024

Life Summary [details]


Liverpool, Merseyside, England


11 December, 1853 (aged ~ 52)
Hobart, Tasmania, Australia

Cultural Heritage

Includes subject's nationality; their parents' nationality; the countries in which they spent a significant part of their childhood, and their self-identity.

Passenger Ship
Key Places
Convict Record

Crime: theft
Sentence: 7 years