painter and clerk, was born in England, probably in London where he was later employed as a clerk. Convicted of forging a request for goods, he was sentenced to transportation for fifteen years in the London Central Criminal Court (Old Bailey) in 1852. Walsh arrived at Western Australia on 10 August 1854 and worked in Perth. He was granted a ticket of leave in March 1856 and a conditional pardon in June 1859 but was reconvicted later that year for forging a £1 note. Walsh may then have decorated a cell in Fremantle gaol with monochrome frescoes (mainly of religious subjects, apparently copied from prints); the only extant signature is 'Walsh’ and their style is consistent with a date of about 1859-60 when he was an inmate. His second ticket of leave was granted in 1863 and conditional freedom four years later.

Two views of Perth from Mount Eliza, both signed J. Walsh and dated 1864 (AGWA and Art Gallery of the Benedictine Abbey of New Norcia), an unsigned and undated Scene near River (Blackboy) (1860s, AGWA) and a series of twelve pencil and watercolour sketches of Aborigines are more firmly attributed to Walsh. The Aboriginal series depicts members of the local tribe engaged in various 'typical’ activities: preparing for hunting, making a fire and so on. Walsh’s intent seems to have been documentary (another series of traditional and contemporary pastimes of native peoples popular throughout the British colonies), but his crude drawing makes his figures look like cruel comic caricatures, especially Receiving Spirits near a Log and Receiving Tobacco . This series certainly shows little of the detail apparent in the topographical works attributed to him, presumably done with the aid of a camera lucida.

Staff Writer
Date written:
Last updated: