Helen Rose Hughes
- Monash University
“Forger—Convict—Artist” is the first book-length study of the significant contribution that convicted forgers made to the visual iconography of colonial Australia, focusing on the period of convict transportation from Great Britain to Australia from 1788 to 1868. Analyzing a range of artworks, as well as examples from architecture, decorative arts, and even the design and manufacture of financial currency, the study maps the work of convicted forgers onto an analysis of the criminalization of forgery—a crime entwined with the expansion of a credit system dependent on paper instruments and the development of property law—in Great Britain in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. Utilizing an interdisciplinary methodology grounded in art history and combined with legal, literary, colonial, and convict studies, it examines the extent to which Australian art—whose historiography has, since colonization, self-consciously orbited around the binaries of original and copy, center and periphery—originated in a culture of forgery.