painter and diorama artist, was born in Bombay, India, on 29 November 1829, son of Joachim Hayward Stocqueler (1801-1886) and Jane Spencer (1803-1870). His father, variously soldier, journalist, playwright and lecturer, was then editor of the Bombay Courier. The name Stocqueler (an Anglicisation of Stockler) derived from a Portuguese forebear, Christian Stockler, was assumed as a family name by Joachim’s grandfather, Jose Christian Stocqueler or Stockler. Later (particularly in the United States) Joachim adopted the name of Siddons, claiming a relationship to the famous English actress.
In 1843 the Stocqueler family returned to England from India to arrange Edwin’s education. Joachim then returned to India alone, which marked his formal separation from his wife. In 1846 he left India for the last time and became associated, not very successfully, with the London stage. He authored numerous publications dealing with India and the military, held editorial positions and assisted students to prepare for commission-based military examinations (Colligan calls him 'an eminent lecturer at moving panorama shows in London’s Regent Street Gallery of Illustration’). Joachim Stocqueler fled London to the United States, bankrupt, in December 1859 due to his involvement in a military commission scandal. He did not return to England until 1864.
Edwin Stocqueler, with his mother, sailed for Australia in 1852, encouraged by his father and the opportunity for a moving panorama of the goldfields. Edwin was on the Bendigo diggings by 1853 and made Sandhurst (now Bendigo) his headquarters. Nothing is known of his artistic training, but a letter to the Bendigo Advertiser in 1857 made reference to his acquaintance with 'Mr. Phaey, R.A. (since Secretary to the London Art Union)’ who, almost certainly, was the drawing master James Fahey (1804-85), secretary of the New Water-Colour Society and painter of a moving panorama of the Nile exhibited in London’s Egyptian Hall in 1849 (Colligan, p.52). It is possible that Stocqueler had trained under him.
Over the next four years Stocqueler, accompanied by his mother, travelled widely, undertaking hazardous journeys in a canvas boat along the Murray, Ovens and Goulburn Rivers. Probably undertaken intermittently, these journeys extended over some four years and involved him in observation and records of natural history along the routes. Returning to Sandhurst early in 1857, he established a studio in Market Place and completed a diorama depicting life on the goldfields and in other parts of the colony. He appears to have worked on this for some time, as the diorama was described in the Bendigo Advertiser as being a mile long (almost certainly an overstatement). It was presented in two parts, each consisting of at least twenty-five paintings. The first half mainly comprised views of Melbourne, Sandhurst, the Bendigo goldfields and the Goulburn River country, while the emphasis in the other half was on north-eastern Victoria, mainly around Beechworth but concluding with several views of Castlemaine. Accompanied by music and songs, it opened to the public in the Sandhurst Mechanics Institute on 8 August 1857. A week later it had moved to Stocqueler’s 'Royal Gallery of Illustration’, the grandiose title deriving from the London gallery where his father had provided the commentary to Grieve & Telbin’s diorama of the shipping route to India and Australia in 1853.
By October the diorama had been succeeded by other entertainments at the gallery, but it reappeared in February 1858 at the Criterion Hall, Castlemaine. Early in March it was being shown at Tarrengower (Maldon) and it is probable that it travelled with Stocqueler to other goldfield towns before it opened at Melbourne in June 1859 in another Gallery of Illustration in Bourke Street. By then a splendid title had been bestowed upon it – Golden Land of the Sunny South. Yet it does not appear to have provoked great interest. Stocqueler moved it to the suburb of Collingwood but soon afterwards both it and its artist disappeared from the local scene. Should the diorama have survived and one day be retrieved, it might well provide one of the most valuable visual records of early colonial and goldfields’ life.
Stocqueler painted other works too. Visiting his studio in 1857, a reporter from the Bendigo Advertiser noted some seventy paintings of native birds and animals and referred to other 'very numerous and interesting sketches and paintings’. He is now known by only a handful of paintings: a small watercolour of early Bendigo (Bendigo Art Gallery), a large oil of Castlemaine from Ten Foot Hill (1858, Pioneers’ and Old Residents’ Association, Castlemaine), an undated oil of a night corroboree (National Library of Australia [NLA]) and two or three others in private collections. Also convincingly attributed to him is a large unsigned Australian gold-diggings scene (c.1858, oil on canvas, NLA). These few works bear out the assessment of a reviewer of his diorama that he was 'an artist and naturalist of considerable merit’. Edwin, effectively abandoned by his father, departed Melbourne for Bombay in May 1860 with his mother.
Later in 1860 he accompanied the British commissioner in Aden, (the then) Colonel Coghlan, to Muscat and Zanzibar to investigate the cause of conflict between the sons of the deceased Sayyid Said. The Muscat and Zanzibar Commission, on which Edwin acted as Clerk, also made enquiries concerning the slave-trade; it reported that upwards of 30,000 slaves annually were taken from the dominions of the Sultan of Zanzibar and the neighbouring Portuguese territories. This formed the basis of Edwin’s later interest in Slavery.
He married Gertrude Harriet Williams in 1862 at Colaba. A son born in May 1863 died on 4 December 1863; and a daughter was born on 29 October 1864. He relocated to South Africa sometime after 1864 where his second son was born in 1867. His first wife died in 1872 (in London) and he remarried Sarah Ann Hinder (1854-1911) in 1876; there was one issue from his second marriage.
In 1876, he was referred to the Anti-Slavery Society by Sir Bartle Frere (1815-84): a leading opponent of slavery; former Governor of Bombay; and High Commissioner for South Africa (1877). Edwin retained his drawings and paintings of the slave-trade made during his work with the Muscat and Zanzibar Commission. A photo-lithograph of his painting The Zanzibar Slave Market was published in the Anti-Slave Reporter in March 1877. Other works followed: in May with the landing of slave cargo at Jeddah; in July a scene in a Mohammedan Court detailing the ordering for sale of a negress and her baby; in November a work that depicting the rescue of a slave by Archdeacon Fuller; and in September 1880 he depicted the horrors experienced on the march of a slave caravan. His last published work with the society depicted the kidnapping of a negro woman.
Three signed South African paintings are recorded by Gordon-Brown(locations unknown), one of Durban being dated 1870.
The second-last recorded sighting and discussion with Edwin was by Charles Walsh Pugh, an ex-resident of Bendigo. During a visit to London in the early eighteen-seventies Pugh came across Edwin. During the conversation Edwin mentioned to him that he had a ‘relic of old Bendigo in 1856 in the shape of a picture painted by his own brush’; he wanted to present it to him. Edwin inscribed the gift ‘To Mr. Charles Walsh Pugh, from an old friend whom he befriended in adversity’. Pugh noted that Edwin had ‘seen better days’. Edwin was about forty-two years of age.
Upon Edwin’s death he was described ‘as an artist who sold oil pictures, either his own or on commission, on the pavement . . . a talented and unfortunate man. For several years we had completely lost sight of him, and his sudden death in the street from syncope was, doubtless, largely brought about by the precarious nature of his livelihood’ (Anti-Slavery Reporter). He was also a pavement artist. Samuel Butler used him as the prototype of Mr. Higgs in Erewhon Revisited, including a reference to a relative who went to Australia in 1851. Perhaps Butler’s description captures how he saw Edwin:
drawing pictures with coloured chalks upon the pavement; I used sometimes to watch him, and marvel at the skill with which he represented fogs, floods, and fires. These three ‘f’s’, he would say, were his three best friends, for they were easy to do and brought in halfpence freely [..] he considered himself a public benefactor but carrying it out in such a perishable fashion. ‘At any rate’, he would say, ‘no one can bequeath one of my many replicas to the nation’.
Henry Festing Jones in his memoir on Butler added:
'I never saw Stocquelar (sic) after Butler’s death. Mr. Tanner, who used to collect his rents, told me about him. He wore long hair and a Scotch cap, and had some artistic training – enough for him to turn one of the rooms in his house into a studio where he had pictures painted by himself, landscapes of Dulwich and the neighbourhood, and portraits, including a portrait of his wife.’
His artistic work extended to sculpting animals; on the 1891 census he corrected the scribe’s record of his occupation to read ‘sculpt’ rather than ‘paint’ animals.
Edwin’s son, Charles, wrote family notes in 1898, three years after the death of Edwin, with the assistance of his cousin, Henry Julian Hunter, the son of Rev. Joseph Hunter. The notes made no reference to the seven years Edwin spent in Australia; no papers were left, and no oral history passed to descendants other than that which described his time in South Africa. Edwin’s period in Australia was expunged from his life, which was perhaps indicative of the fate he suffered in Australia at the hands of his father.