For the Love of Nature
E.E. Gostelow’s Birds and Flowers
By Christobel Mattingley
Ebenezer Edward Gostelow (1866–1944) began his 50-year-long teaching career at the age of 15. Gostelow displayed a talent for art at an early age and, although he had no formal training, some of his work was shown in the Colonial and Indian Exhibition in London in 1886 when he was 19.
From 1889, he taught in country schools across New South Wales. He was a keen naturalist and took every opportunity to study the local plants and birds.
In 1916, he became Headmaster of Alma Public School in Broken Hill and, for the next four and a half years, he painted the region’s wildflowers. In subsequent years, he also painted the flowers of coastal New South Wales, Queensland and Western Australia.
Gostelow’s watercolours are detailed and delicate. Many depict in minute detail the buds, flowers, leaves and seeds. On each painting he has recorded common and scientific names, and places and dates of collection.
After retirement in 1931, he launched into a new project—painting all known species of Australian birds. He painted birds from specimens he borrowed from the Australian Museum in Sydney and from observing them in their surroundings.
Christobel Mattingley is one of Australia's most respected and admired writers. As well as writing for children, Christobel has written film scripts, short stories, articles and poetry. She has published over 45 books. In 1990 she received the ultimate accolade—an Advance Australia Medal for her contribution to literature in Australia.
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