Staffordshire, England 1775 – Birmingham, England 1828
View on the Macquarie River near the ford, on the road to Launceston
[View of the Macquarie River, Van Diemen's Land] between 1822 and 1824
Sydney, New South Wales, Australia
Materials & Technique: drawings, watercolours, painting in watercolour Support: thick wove paper
Colonial artists depicted views of their new land for a European public. They expressed pride transforming the ‘untamed’ land into a rich European pasture. They frequently changed the features of the landscape to comply with contemporary British interpretations of the picturesque.
Joseph Lycett was one of a large number of convict artists sent to Australia who had received limited training in Britain. He had worked as a painter of portraits and miniatures and was sentenced in 1811 to 14 years transportation for forgery. Shortly after his arrival in Sydney in 1814, he was appointed to the police office as a clerk. However, in 1815 he repeated his original offence and was sent to the secondary penal settlement at Newcastle, where he worked as an architect and artist for Captain James Wallis until he received a pardon in 1819. He made sketching expeditions around Sydney, but there is no evidence that he ever visited Tasmania and he probably based this watercolour of the Macquarie river and Argyle Plains on sketches by other artists.
After he received an absolute pardon and left Sydney to return to Britain in 1822, Lycett made a series of aquatints based on a set of watercolours, such as this one, of the same size as the finished prints. Originally conceived in the relatively new technique of lithography, they were finally produced as hand-coloured aquatintsin the book, Views in Australia. The views do not reflect the hardships of Lycett’s past, or suggest Australia as a convict colony. Instead, they portray a fertile land which has been ordered by European civilisation to provide a comfortable life for those living on it. However, in 1825 when the book was published, the wool markets had fallen and, shortly afterwards, a serious drought threatened Lycett’ rather optimistic view of Australia.
Text © National Gallery of Australia, Canberra 2010
From: Anne Gray (ed), Australian art in the National Gallery of Australia, National Gallery of Australia, Canberra, 2002