Wednesday, February 1, 2012

THE LEAFY SEA DRAGON


    W.B. Gould, Leafy sea dragon in Gould's Sketchbook of Fishes, c1832, 
     watercolour on paper, The State Library of Tasmania.

BAY ART BLOG:  The State Library of Tasmania,
                                       near Great Oyster Bay                            
      To fall in love with bays is to fall in love with it's magical creatures. This whimsical sea dragon is one of thirty-six, 7.3" x  8.9 " sketches created by William B. Gould, an English and Australian artist. Only six of the sketches were signed, none were dated and the common and species names were penciled by others. The collection includes: Flounder, Perch, Toad fish, Pipe fish and Snake eel to name a few. 


Portrait of W. B. Gould.
   The sketches were created in Tasmania while Gould was a servant to a student of natural history, Dr. De Little. He asked Gould to paint what he saw on the beaches not knowing the artworks would become a collection of historical significance. While living in England, Gould had established a criminal record and was eventually sentenced in 1827 to serve seven years in Australia for theft of a coat. Although he finally gained his freedom, he never returned to England. 


  The original leather bound sketchbook is in the State Library of Tasmania, although in poor condition.  In 2001, author Richard Flanagan wrote an award-winning fictional novel about the artist titled, Gould's Book of Fish: A Novel in Twelve Fish. The Weedy sea dragon decorates the book's cover as it does others. The sketchbook was recognized in 2011 as a document of world significance by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO). It also contains the first record of a number of species and is still used today by scientists.



   
  The Great Oyster Bay.
  
  Tasmania is known for amazing bays including the Great Oyster Bay, located on the east coast and once occupied by Aborigines. The tribe harvested oysters and hunted birds during the off season. Since the 1970's Pacific oysters, native oysters, scallops and mussels have been cultivated through aqua cultures. The invasive Rice grass plant (native to Europe, Asia and North America) has caused problems for the oyster gardeners. Additional native animals include various possums, the Water rat and the Tasmanian devil who has dropped population due to Devil facial tumor disease.


The State Library of Tasmania.
   The State Library of Tasmania operates as part of their Department of Education and is located in Hobart. The Reference Library contains over 200,000 books, periodicals and maps and operates several collections and archives of historical publications and documents related to Tasmania.

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