Joseph Lycett

Joseph Lycett was born in Staffordshire in around 1774 and worked as a professional portrait and miniature painter.  Like fellow convict, Francis Greenway, Lycett was convicted of forgery and transported to Australia for a term of fourteen years.

In 1815, a year after he arrived in Sydney, he was again convicted of forging bank notes. As punishment, Lycett was sent to the secondary penal colony of Newcastle where he began work as a legitimate artist and designer. In Newcastle, Lycett attracted the patronage of the commandant, Major James Wallis, who had also commanded the General Hewitt – the ship on which Lycett was transported. Under Wallis, Lycett was involved in designing Christ Church, Newcastle, and painting its altar piece. Wallis’ influence earned Lycett a conditional pardon, and he carved out a successful career, primarily as a landscape painter.

Samples of Lycett’s work were acquired by Governor Macquarie and sent to Lord Bathurst, Secretary of State for the Colonies, in England. Views in Australia, a publication of engraved landscapes based on Lycett’s work, was published in London between 1824 and 1825. It is thought that Lycett may be responsible for some of the painted panels on two wooden collector’s chests in the State Library’s collection. One of these is believed to have belonged to the Macquarie family. Certainly some of the panels are based on engraved views in Wallis’ 1821 publication, An historical account of the Colony of New South Wales. Wallis himself claimed to be artist of many of the original works on which the engravings are based, but some bear striking resemblance to Lycett’s work and are now credited to him. The engravings were the work of convict Walter Preston.

Joseph Lycett left the colony for England in 1822. What happened to him when he returned to England is unconfirmed, however a handwritten note in one of the Mitchell Library copies of Views in Australia claims that he was arrested again for forgery. He then allegedy tried to commit suicide by slashing his throat and later died when he reopened the wound in hospital. This is likely to have occurred sometime between 1825 and 1828.  

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 > View the collection of original watercolours used for the published Views in Australia Link to catalogue