19 September 1762|
|Occupation||Landscape and natural history artist, author and convict|
|Known for||"A direct north general view of Sydney Cove 1794" (major surviving work)|
Thomas Watling (19 September 1762 - 1814?), was an early Australian painter and illustrator, notable for his natural history drawings and landscapes.
Early life and education
Born in Dumfries, he was raised by his maiden Aunt, Marion Kirkpatrick, after both parents died in his infancy. Art featured in his education and he went on to form his own “academy” where he taught drawing to "Ladies and Gentlemen". In Glasgow he worked briefly as a coach and chaise painter before being charged with forgery, in Dumfries on 27 November 1788.
Conviction and transportation to New South Wales
Watling was charged with having forged 1 guinea promissory notes on the bank of Scotland and sentenced to fourteen years transportation to New South Wales on 14 April 1789. He was held at Plymouth in the prison ship Dunkirk, before being transferred to the convict transport Pitt.  Departing on the Pitt with 410 convicts in July 1791, Watling escaped while docked at Cape Town. He was later arrested and transferred to the East Indiaman Royal Admiral, finally arriving in Sydney on 7 October 1792.
Artist in New South Wales
In Sydney Watling worked with John White, the colony's Surgeon General, copying natural history illustrations. In 1796 he was given a conditional pardon by the colony's second governor, John Hunter. Thomas Watling painted many of the early colonial pictures of Australia. One of his paintings, A direct north general view of Sydney Cove 1794, is the earliest known oil painting of Sydney. This work appears to have been painted from a series of sketches that he took with him back to England. It now belongs to the Dixson Gallery, State Library of New South Wales.
- Rienits, Rex. "Thomas Watling (1762-?)". Australian Dictionary of Biography. Retrieved 1 February 2018.
- Bull, Gordon. "Thomas Watling b. 1762". Design & Art Australia Online. Retrieved 2 February 2018.
- Farthing, Stephen, ed. (2011). "1001 paintings you must see before you die". State Library of New South Wales Catalogue. ABC Books. Retrieved 2 February 2018.
- McCormick, Tim (1987). First views of Australia: a history of early Australia. Chippendale, NSW: David Ell Press in association with Longueville Publications. ISBN 0908197721.
- Watling, Thomas (1794). "A direct north general view of Sydney Cove". Manuscripts, Oral History and Pictures Catalogue, State Library of New South Wales. Retrieved 2 February 2018.
- Hindwood, K.A. (1970). "The "Watling" drawings with incidental notes on the "Lambert" and the "Latham" drawings". Proceedings of the Royal Zoological Society of New South Wales. 89 (1968-1969): 16–32.
- Watling, Thomas (1794). Letters From An Exile At Botany Bay, To His Aunt In Dumfries: giving a particular account of the settlement of New South Wales, with the customs and manners of the inhabitants (PDF). Penrith, Scotland: Ann Bell. OCLC 225347415.
- Watling,Thomas (1762–?) Australian Dictionary of Biography
- "The Watling Collection". London: Natural History Museum.
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