Art Wednesday: John Gould

Artist: John Gould (1804 - 1881)
Birthplace: United Kingdom

No more of that modern art (!) here is one beautiful and talented painter of God's creatures and I think they are amazing. Please enjoy. 

Like his father, a gardener, Gould commenced training to also become a gardener, however he became an expert in the art of taxidermy and in 1824 he set himself up in business in London as a taxidermist, and his skill led to him becoming the first Curator and Preserver at the museum of the Zoological Society of London in 1827. This lead him to meet many leading naturalists and often the first to see new collections of birds given to the Society.  Sharing these wonderful birds, he released a book A Century of Birds from the Himalaya Mountains which was illustrated by his wife.  It was very successful.

As a result, he and his family moved to Australia in 1838 to work on Birds of Australia. It included a total of 600 plates in seven volumes, 328 of which were new to science and named by Gould. He also published A Monograph of the Macropodidae, or Family of Kangaroos (1841–1842) and the three volume work The Mammals of Australia (1849–1861).

From the outset, Gould took great care with his publications and aimed to make them artistic as well as accurate representations of the birds in their natural habitat. He was also meticulous about the descriptions of the specimens and their habits, employing the Linnean system of binomial classification. Unable to find a publisher for this first book, Gould published it himself. 

A man with no training in the arts, was able to reproduce in great detail these wonderful works of art that allow others to see wildlife that they, otherwise, would not have been able to see. What talent.

Sadly his wife died in 1841 not long after their arrival in Australia.

For more information:

Mallard Duck
Throughout his professional life Gould had a strong interest in hummingbirds. He accumulated a collection of 320 species, which he exhibited at the Great Exhibition of 1851. Despite his interest Gould had never seen a live hummingbird.
 Australian Egret
The platypus
The Tasmanian Tiger
Long tailed hopping mouse
Western Quoll


The painting below is called “Ruling Passion” by John Everett Millaris (1885).  The work was inspired by a visit Millais paid to the ornithologist John Gould shortly before his death in 1881.  Interestedly, the man in the painting was not modeled on Gould, rather a friend (and engraver) of Millaris and two of the others are professional models, and the two smallest children are Millais' grandchildren.  But it shows the respect and intrigue that Millaris had for John Gould.



  1. Now, those... are... gorgeous!! I really like those a whole lot more than last week's art!!!! :) Very interesting story about the artist, too! :)

  2. I thought you would like these Clara! They are so detailed.

  3. Jo,

    Mr. Gould was certainly a talented man. For someone with very little training in the arts, you certainly could not tell this when you look at his lovely paintings.

    -L. Rose

  4. These are wonderful Jo - I love the first one with the pheasents and quail. I hated my art class in school - I think I am learning more from you that I ever did in that boring class!


  5. Fabulous work by Gould!
    And so important as a record of these precious things.
    ps thanks for the birthday wishes :-)


Post a Comment