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Joseph Lycett was born in Staffordshire England in 1774. He was convicted of forgery in August 1811 and was transported to Sydney in February 1814. Whilst in Sydney, he was convicted again of forgery, skilfully forging 5 shilling bills. For this he was sent to Newcastle where his drawing skills came to the attention of the commandant of the settlement. During this time Lycett was given a conditional pardon. He returned to Sydney and was allowed to practice his art and in 1820 Governor Macquarie sent 3 of his paintings to Earl Bathurst. It is generally thought that the absolute pardon which Lycett received in 1821 was a reward for these pictures.
The pictures in this calendar come from what is believed to be Lycett’s unique access to Aboriginal people because of the relationship between James Wallis, commandant of the Newcastle penal settlement and senior man Burigon of the Awabakal tribe. It is thought, for instance, that Burigon accompanied Joseph Lycett on his sketching expeditions, giving Lycett access to scenes that ordinarily would have been closed to non-Aboriginal people.