The story of Australian printmaking 1801–2005

Go to NGA story of Australian printmaking website

John Brack 'Third daughter' 1954 print, intaglio Collection of the National Gallery of Australia © Helen Brack

John Brack 'Third daughter' 1954 print, intaglio Collection of the National Gallery of Australia © Helen Brack
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30 March – 3 June 2007
National Gallery of Australia, Canberra

The story of Australian printmaking 1801–2005 opens on Friday 30 March 2007 at the National Gallery of Australia. This significant exhibition features over 500 works of art selected from the National Gallery’s collection of Australian Prints, Posters and Illustrated Books.

When the First Fleet arrived in New South Wales in 1788 a printing press was included in the essential cargo needed to form the new colony. This exhibition traverses the 200-year history of the printed image in Australia and provides a rare opportunity to see a broad range of prints. It covers all the major developments in Australian printmaking from the early works created by convicts and free settlers to the exciting prints that characterise contemporary printmaking in Australia.

The story of Australian printmaking 1801–2005 is displayed chronologically and begins with many of the first printed works produced in the colonies. It features examples of exquisite early printmaking such as John Lewin’s Birds of New South Wales with their natural history 1813and Views in New South Wales 1814 by Absalom West. It also includes the playful documentary style of ST Gill’s gold rush imagery, important modernist print works by Australian women artists such as Jessie Traill, the social realist works of Noel Counihan and the political poster works of collectives such as Redback Graphix. Works of art by well-known Australian artists including Margaret Preston, John Brack, Thea Proctor, Tom Roberts, Norman Lindsay and Sydney Long are displayed. Contemporary printmaking is represented through works by Dorothy Napangardi, Mike Parr, Dennis Nona and eX de Medici.

The large-scale exhibition displays an impressive array of techniques and textures including fine tracery of copperplate engravings and rich blacks of mezzotint, the blurred line of drypoint, the sweep of the lithographic crayon, graphic woodcut prints and confronting screen prints.

When it emerged in Australia printmaking was a new form of visual communication. Since its early development the printed image has enabled us to see a reflection of Australia’s cultural heritage and it continues to be an effective and highly popular form of communication today.

The National Gallery of Australia's extensive collection of more than 36,000 prints has been greatly assisted by the generous support of Mr L Gordon Darling AC CMG through the Gordon Darling Australasian Print Fund. This support has enabled the National Gallery of Australia to develop an unrivalled collection of Australasian prints, and provides funding for initiatives such as the Australian Prints Online project and the website

A major two-volume publication accompanies the exhibition, , Printed images in Colonial Australia 1801–1901 and Printed images of Australian artists 1885–1995, written by Roger Butler, Senior Curator of Australian Prints, Drawings and Illustrated Books.

On view
Friday 30 March – 3 June May 2007
National Gallery of Australia, Canberra

Admission FREE

Sixth Australian Print Symposium
Friday 30 March - Sunday 1 April 2007
The symposium features more than 20 speakers, including artists, print curators and art historians.
Bookings for the symposium are essential: 
phone +61 2 6240 6537 or visit

For further information please contact
Todd Hayward
phone +61 2 6240 6700
Caroline Vero
phone +61 2 6240 6431