Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander art
19th Century Objects
Early Western Desert Paintings 1971-1974
Made in the 1800s, these works of art are a testament to the expertise, rich cultural knowledge and ingenuity of their creators.
While little is known about the artists who made them, these objects represent the diversity of Australian Indigenous art and culture across the continent. Both functional and aesthetic, these artefacts highlight the historical depth of the collection.
During the period 1971–74, a new and dynamic painting movement emerged from the Aboriginal community of Papunya in central Australia. These Luritja, Pintupi, Warlpiri and Anmatyerr men began to create works of art using acrylic paint on board and canvas to depict stories from the ancient past. These poignant representations of the Dreaming exploded onto the Australian art market.
The paintings were a powerful statement about Aboriginal culture. Each painting referenced the land and law associated with a specific region as taught to the people by the Ancestors. The artists used ceremonial iconography—previously applied on sacred ritual objects and in body designs and ceremonial ground paintings—to celebrate the beauty, richness and complexity of their culture and to present it to a wider audience.