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Nineteenth Century New Zealand Artists: A Guide & Handbook

SWAINSON, William FLS 1789–1855

page 230

SWAINSON, William FLS 1789–1855

Distinguished naturalist who purchased land from the New Zealand Company 1839 and became a committee member: he arrived Wellington on the James 1841, and took up land at the Hutt. Was born in London. In his earlier life had been in Commissar Department of the Army, in Malta 1807, then Sicily for eight years. Attained the rank of Commissary General but retired for health reasons. Later travelled to Brazil with an Austrian scientific party: learned to work as a lithographer so he could make his own illustrations. In 1828 spent six months in Paris making sketches in the Jardin des Plantes. It was after the death of his wife and because of financial losses that he became interested in colonisation, and came to New Zealand. In early 1850s visited Victoria and Tasmania (Van Dieman's Land) at the invitation of their governments to explore the flora of Australia. Published The Birds of Brazil and Mexico, and A Preliminary Discourse on the Study of Natural History. Made many drawings and watercolours of botanical subjects and of the Wellington and Hutt Districts. Died in Lower Hutt. Work included Centennial Ex Wtn 1940. Represented: AIML, National Museum, NAG, Turnbull (a large collection of his work) and Hocken.