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William Westall

1781 - 1850

This person is the subject of ongoing research. We have started by researching their relationship to the enslavement of people.

Biographical notes

Painter and engraver.

Slavery connections

No known connections with slavery.

Abolition connections

During an expedition into the mountains near Bombay, Westall witnessed scenes of destitution and starvation. His chief servant acquired a boy from his parents, who hoped to save his life, for ‘a substantial meal and a few pounds of rice’. Upon their return to the coast, Westall, who remained on shore while the boat was being loaded, ‘put a previously formed project into effect: he drew some money from his pocket, and putting it into the young man’s hand, pointed to his native mountains. The language of nature was sufficient; with tears of joy and a look of astonishment and deep gratitude, the youth threw himself at his benefactor’s feet … his purchaser, standing on the deck of the vessel, looked at the scene with dismay, unable to interfere; contemplating the serous loss he had sustained, of a fine young fellow, whose value would have been fully appreciated in the slave-market’. (Robert Westall, ‘Memoir of William Westall, A.R.A.’, The Art-Journal, vol. 12, 1850, 104.)

National Gallery painting connections

Donor: bequeathed in 1851: NG1877 ( now at Tate, N01877).


History of Parliament Trust (ed.), The History of Parliament: British Political, Social & Local History, London 1964-,
Checked and not foundItem on publisher's website

UCL Department of History (ed.), Legacies of British Slave-ownership, London 2020,
Checked and not foundItem on publisher's website

S. West, 'Westall family', in J. Turner et al. (eds), Grove Art Online, Oxford 1998-,
Checked and foundItem on publisher's website

R. J. Westall, 'Westall, William', in C. Matthew et al. (eds), Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford 1992-,
Checked and foundItem on publisher's website