Unveiling the Wallis Album

On the 20th February 2012 a ceremony was held at the Newcastle Art Gallery to unveil the Wallis Album.

The Wallis Album Unveiled

The Wallis Album was compiled by Captain James Wallis, who was Commandant of the Newcastle penal settlement from June 1816 to December 1818. Of the 35 works, the album features many by convict artist Joseph Lycett whom Wallis developed an association with after he was sent to Newcastle in 1815 for re-offending.

Digitised images from the  complete Wallis album are now available on the Mitchell Library web-site:


Thumbnails of all pages:

This album was a personal copy of a printed book by Captain James Wallis, supplemented with extra paintings, sketches and annotations relating to the Aboriginal people in Newcastle, as well as landscapes,  flora and fauna of the area including an impossibly rare sketch of Throsby Creek. This work was a gift to his wife, and represents not only his love for her, but also his love for Newcastle and the Hunter Region. It is quite unique and a real treasure.

Sample page from The Wallis Album

The printed work is entitled: An historical account of the colony of New South Wales and its dependent settlements : in illustration of twelve views / engraved by W. Preston from drawings taken on the spot by Captain Wallis. To which is subjoined An accurate map of Port Macquarie and the newly discovered River Hastings / by J. Oxley
London : Printed for R. Ackermann by J. Moyes, 1821

see: http://www.flickr.com/photos/uon/sets/72157622518218701/with/4036153890/

This Album is one of the most significant collections of convict-era artworks ever discovered, and was unveiled to the public for the first time at the Newcastle Art Gallery, in the city in which it was created.

Dr Alex Byrne taking the Wallis Album out of its box

Richard Neville, Mitchell Librarian said that the album had been kept in a cupboard in Canada by a Wallis descendant.

Mr Richard Neville, Mitchell Librarian

Richard Neville, Mitchell Librarian said:

One could see immediately how important [the album was] and how vital it was to purchase it. 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.

The Wallis album really is without a doubt the most significant pictorial artefact to have been made in colonial NSW during the 1810s, and is also the only known collection that relates so directly to Wallis’ time in NSW.

Portraits of Aboriginal people from this region and era are extraordinarily rare, and it shows that Wallis enjoyed a certain familiarity with the Indigenous people during his time in Newcastle.

In fact, we have a letter in the Library’s collection where Wallis talks fondly about the beauty of the Newcastle district and his pleasurable hunting expeditions with Burigon, who is featured in this portrait.

In anticipation

The NSW State Library bought the album at auction for $1.8 million.

Wallis Album unveiled by Dr Alex Byrne

Arts Minister George Souris said it was important to bring the album back to where most of its works were created.

The Hon. George Souris, NSW Minister for the Arts

The Hon. George Souris, NSW Minister for the Arts said:

This remarkable album is a vital piece of colonial history for Newcastle and Australia, and I commend the State Library of NSW for securing it for the nation after it was discovered in the back of a cupboard in Canada last year.

The album has a strong link to the people of Newcastle and the local Indigenous communities, so it is wonderful that local residents have been given the first opportunity to view it at the Newcastle Art Gallery.”

Gallery director Ron Ramsey described the album as a treasure ”greater than the jewels of Elizabeth Taylor and so much cheaper”.

Mr Ron Ramsay, Director of the Newcastle Art Gallery

For ABC radio interviews by Carol Duncan see: http://blogs.abc.net.au/nsw/2012/02/the-wallis-album.html?site=newcastle&…

Aunty Nola embraced by Tim Owen, Member for Newcastle

This video represents the highlights of the ceremony. Speakers include:

Mr Ron Ramsay, Director of the Newcastle Art Gallery
Mr Richard McGuiness, Guraki Aboriginal Advisory Committee
Aunty Nola Hawken, Awabakal Descendent and Traditional Owner
Councillor John S. Tate, Lord Mayor of Newcastle
Rob Thomas, President of the Library Council of New South Wales
Richard Neville, Mitchell Librarian
The Hon. George Souris, NSW Minister for the Arts
The Opening and Unveiling of the Wallis Album
Tim Owen, Member for Newcastle Presents Album to Aunty Nola Hawken
Dr Alex Byrne, NSW State Librarian & Chief Executive

Aunty Nola Hawken – Awabakal Descendent and Traditional Owner
Dr Alex Byrne, NSW State Librarian & Chief Executive

According to Dr Alex Byrne, NSW State Librarian and Chief Executive:

The Wallis album is a sensational new addition to the Mitchell Library collection, the world’s largest and most renowned storehouse of records relating to the history of our nation…The State Library is absolutely committed to connecting the original documents of Australia with local communities, and we’re thrilled to be partnering with the Newcastle Art Gallery in sharing this object that has obvious historical and emotional significance to Newcastle.”

Dr Byrne speaking with Aunty Nola, Aunty Kerrie and Mrs Macquarie (Anne Creevey)
Sample page from the Wallis Album
Aunty Nola with family viewing the Wallis Album

This video was filmed and prepared by Gionni Di Gravio, University of Newcastle Archivist and Chair of the Coal River Working Party.

6 thoughts on “Unveiling the Wallis Album

  1. As a Novocastrian I’m gratified that ‘the powers that be’ saw fit to have the launch of the album in this city.
    How fantastic is it that this Album has (1) Survived in such good condition,
    (2) That its come home to NSW after 194 years and (3) That Joseph Lycett can, at last, be given the rightful credit as the artist of most of this material rather than Wallis who claimed to be the artist. As Lachlan Macquarie once remarked; In NSW there are two classes of people; those who are convicts, and those who should be.

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