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Old Masters: Australias Great Bark Artists was on show at the National Museum of Australia in Canberra from 6 December 2013 to 20 July 2014. The international exhibition is touring China in 2019.

Totemic Crocodile, 1965 - click to view larger image
Yirawala, Totemic Crocodile, 1965, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Affairs Art collection, National Museum of Australia. © the artist or the artist's estate, licensed by Aboriginal Artists Agency 2013. This image must not be reproduced in any form without permission.

The exhibition

Showcased the work of Australia's old masters: Aboriginal painters from Arnhem Land who carried one of the oldest continuing traditions of art into the modern era.

The bark paintings

Included 122 works from the National Museum’s bark painting collection, the largest in the world.

The artists

Celebrated the genius and art of 40 master bark painters including Narritjin Maymuru, Yirawala, Mawalan Marika and their contemporaries.

Explore the paintings by stylistic regions

The paintings in the exhibition are organised according to the three stylistic regions in Arnhem Land: western Arnhem Land, where figurative images predominate; eastern Arnhem Land, where the emphasis is on geometric and conventionalised imagery; and central Arnhem Land, where artists tend to combine both approaches. Within these three stylistic regions Old Masters explores some of the major themes of bark painting, from the ancestral realm to expressions of identity and reflections on contemporary life.

All these works are now part of the National Museum of Australia's collection.

All these bark paintings are part of the National Museum of Australia’s collection. © the artist or the artist’s estate, licensed by Aboriginal Artists Agency 2013, unless otherwise specified. These images must not be reproduced in any form without permission.

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