Album of Australian Colonial Paintings Discovered in Canadian Cupboard Return Home

Album of Australian Colonial Paintings Discovered in Canadian Cupboard Return Home

One of the most significant pictorial colonial records of New South Wales during the early 19th century will go on display in Australia for the first time after being discovered in Canada last year.

Made in Newcastle by Captain James Wallis and convict artist Joseph Lycett, the volume of sketches, paintings and engravings known as the “Wallis Album” was unveiled at the Newcastle Art Gallery yesterday where it will remain on display until the 26th of February.

The 194-year-old album features 35 watercolours and drawings of Sydney, regional views of NSW, portraits of Aborigines and natural history illustrations.  Richard Neville, librarian at the New South Wales State Library, explained that “The album not only answers many longstanding questions about the authorship of works previously attributed to Wallis and Lycett, but sheds new light on the nature of inter-racial relationships.”

Purchased by the State Library of New South Wales for AUD$1.8 million in October last year at an auction conducted by Canada’s Gardner Galleries, the album was previously unknown until it was found in the back of a cupboard at a deceased estate in Ontario, Canada.

The importance of this album was highlighted by Gardner Galleries who stated in their auction catalogue that:

 “Works of art known to be by Wallis are very rare. Up to the discovery of this book surviving works from his years in Australia may have been limited to a signed watercolour, unsigned drawing and depending on attribution one to four unsigned oil paintings. Notes written by Wallis mentioned portraits of Burigon and Jack, and also missing were most of the original drawings used by Preston for the engravings in the Views. This book contains one signed and at minimum three unsigned Wallis watercolours, several original watercolours of the Views, nine unsigned Wallis drawings and portraits of Burigon and Jack.”

The Gardner Galleries catalogue can be viewed here