Level 3 Mortlock Wing State Library of South Australia North Terrace Adelaide SA 5000

Views in Australia or New South Wales and Van Diemen's Land by Joseph Lycett, 1825.

Joseph Lycett was an artist who was transported to Australia in 1811 for forgery. His fifty aquatint engravings of landscape views are considered to be Australia's finest of the time and Lycett to be the outstanding artist of his period in Australia.

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Joseph Lycett (1774-1828) was born in Staffordshire, England, where he became a botanical artist and by 1810 he was also noted as being a painter of portraits and miniatures and as an engraver.

Convicted of forgery in August 1811 he was transported to Australia sailing on board the General Hewitt and arriving in Sydney on 7th February 1814. He was then granted a ticket of leave and found employment as a painter and also as a clerk. In 1815 he was again convicted of forgery this time of 5-shilling notes being found in possession of a small copper - plate press.

He was then sent to Newcastle but eventually was allowed to return to Sydney where he continued to work as an artist and was granted a pardon.

Lycett returned to England in 1822 and, with publisher J Souter, issued his Views in Australia or New South Wales and Van Diemen's Land with descriptive letterpress and a supplement with maps between July 1824 and June 1825.

Joseph Lycett - image
Joseph Lycett - image
Joseph Lycett - image
Joseph Lycett - image

RGSSA catalogue RGS 919.4042 L 982 d Rare Book Room

After conviction for forgery in Sydney in 1815 Lycett was sent to Newcastle sailing on the Lady Nelson.

While there he worked for the administrator Captain James Wallis who recognised his skill as an artist. Wallis was planning to build a church and he had Lycett draw up the plans for it and he later painted the altarpiece. Granted a conditional pardon Lycett was then able to continue to work as an artist, which included painting scenes of the traditional practices of the local indigenous people.

Lycett was then allowed to return to Sydney and worked as a portraitist including among his subjects Governor Macquarie and many other military and public figures. He was granted an absolute pardon on 28 November 1821.

He then returned to England in September 1822. With publisher John Souter, between July 1824 and June 1825, he issued Views in Australia, or New South Wales and Van Diemen's Land in 13 parts published monthly beginning in July 1824. The extent of Lycett's involvement in the publication is unknown and apparently book it was not successful. The views were reissued in a single volume in 1825 (RGSSA copy) and reprinted in 1971.

Comment has been made that the aquatint plates were engraved, "to conform to what was regarded as contemporary taste and hence they can look more like English parklands than Australian bush scenes"