Wallis collection unveiled at Newcastle Art Gallery
See full gallery of images on ABC Radio Newcastle's site (audio interview too)
21 Feb, 2012
The album Captain Wallis compiled, one of the most significant collections of convict-era artworks ever discovered, was unveiled to the public for the first time at Newcastle Art Gallery yesterday.
Captain Wallis was the commandant of the Newcastle penal settlement from 1816 to 1818, and many of the unseen works depict the undeveloped city landscape and the Hunter’s Awabakal people.
Richard Neville, librarian at the Mitchell Library in Sydney, told yesterday’s unveiling of his excitement when he heard the collection had been found as part of a deceased estate in Ontario, Canada.
The album had been kept in a cupboard by a Wallis descendant.
‘‘One could see immediately how important [the album was] and how vital it was to purchase it,’’ Mr Neville said. ‘‘The last time the album was in Australia was on the third of March, 1819, when Captain Wallis put it in a ship and took it back to England.’’
Many of the images are believed to have been painted by Joseph Lycett, a convict artist sent to Newcastle from England for forgery.
The album, compiled almost 200 years ago by commandant of Newcastle Captain James Wallis, was gathering dust in the back of a clothes cupboard in Canada.
After winning the bid at auction last October the State Library of New South Wales, has rescued the artefact and the two dozen original works of art in it returned to Australia and were displayed for the first time yesterday in Newcastle.
State librarian Alex Byrne said the paintings were "incredibly significant" historically, because of the scenes they depicted and the fact Aborigines were named.
"There is still some research to be done, but it looks like this is what Wallis did in retirement - he made this scrapbook showing the high point in his career," Dr Byrne said.