Captain James Wallis, commandant of the secondary penal settlement at Newcastle from 1816 to 1818, built many of Newcastle’s early landmark buildings, and developed an association with convict artist, Joseph Lycett.
Originally transported for forgery, Lycett was sent to Newcastle in 1815 after re-offending in Sydney. Together, Wallis and Lycett were two principal documenters and promoters of the colony during the late Macquarie years. Their association has, for many years, been one of early Australian colonial art's great attribution puzzles.
In New South Wales in 1819, Wallis published a set of engraved views showcasing New South Wales to the world. This book of illustrations was republished in London by Ackermann in 1821. A major achievement, the views were about the success of British enterprise in NSW, and not unnaturally focused on the achievements of Wallis. In both publications, Wallis firmly asserted his authorship via a legend beneath the images: 'from an Original Drawing by Capt Wallis'. Until the discovery of this album, the original drawings on which the engravings are based were thought to have been lost. Consquently, the artist of the drawings has always been contentious, as Lycett has a similar artistic style.
Included in the Library's Wallis album, however, are original drawings for five of these published views each bearing the inscription: 'Drawn by a Convict'. This clearly establishes Lycett, rather than Wallis, as the artist of the original drawings.