John Gould was born in Lyme Regis on the English coast in 1804 and is considered to be one of the finest painters of birdlife of all time. At the age of 14 he was made apprentice gardener at Kew and became enamoured with nature and what he called "her charming attitudes". Gould had no formal education and learnt his art from experience and observation. After his time at Kew he moved to London to start business as a taxidermist until, two years later, he was made Curator to the Museum of the Zoological Society, London.
Gould met his wife in 1828 and married her in the following year. Their combined talents produced a publication called A Century of Birds. Books on birds reached the height of popularity at this time and Gould chose the recently discovered method of lithography for his work. Gould obviously could not have produced 3,245 individual lithographs all by himself - although he was a brilliant ornithologist and artist, one of his most important talents was perhaps his sound business brain and ability to organise a group of artists and craftsmen to obtain the required results. His wife was his main artist and worked from Gould's own sketches.
In 1837 he published a small book, The Synopsis of the Birds of Australia, dealing with 199 species. In May of 1838 the Gould family left England and sailed to Australia, where they stayed for two years. Four months after their return, the first part of The Birds of Australia appeared, including examples of magnificent parrots and budgerigars, which were a great success in London society.
Tragically, Gould's wife and right hand, Elizabeth, died in 1841 during childbirth. John Gould lived on for a further 40 years, producing a tremendous amount of unique wildlife art, earning his name "The Bird Man".