2021 - Winner
This is an innovative and exhilarating account of three 18th-century lives: the British painter Joshua Reynolds, the Cherokee warrior Ostenaco and the Ra’iatean Mai. Bringing together these three men allows Kate Fullagar to think in new ways, not only about encounters between the British empire and Indigenous societies, but to explore the assumptions and limitations of biography itself. This surprising and intelligent work draws on a deep well of research to animate a historical period in which worlds and world views collided.
It was the audacity of this project that most impressed the judging panel, one that succeeds thanks to Kate Fullagar’s committed research and fine prose style. It’s a book very interested in visual culture and there is a cinematographic quality to the narrative. Indeed, if the panel regretted the lack of colour illustrations, we found ourselves often contemplating the worlds of the book brought to screen in documentary form. The Warrior, the Voyager, and the Artist is a dazzling work, one that invites readers to look not only at Ostenaco and Mai through the eyes of Joshua Reynolds, but to look back at Reynolds and Georgian Britain from the standpoint of these two men.