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International exhibition

Old Masters: Australia’s Great Bark Artists showcases the work of Australia’s great bark painters: Aboriginal artists from Arnhem Land who carried one of the oldest continuing traditions of art into the modern era.

On show at:


The exhibition includes artworks, plus carvings that share designs often used in bark paintings. It celebrates the knowledge, genius and work of over 40 master artists, including Narritjin Maymuru, Yirawala, Mawalan Marika, and their contemporaries.

Read the media release


Mimih Hunting, about 1980, Dick Nguleingulei Murrumurru, Bularlhdja clan, Dangbon and Kunwinjku languages, about 1920–1988, 106 x 58.5 cm, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Affairs Art collection, collected by Gunbalanya (Oenpelli). National Museum of Australia

Totemic Crocodile, 1965, Yirawala, Born clan, Kuninjku language, about 1897–1976, 80.2 x 64 cm, Aboriginal Arts Board collection no. 2, collected at Minjilang (Croker Island). National Museum of Australia

Rirratjiŋu Mortuary Ceremony, 1967, by Mathaman Marika, Rirratjiŋu clan, 1920–1970, 89.6 x 46 cm, collected by Helen Groger-Wurm at Yirrkala. National Museum of Australia

Fight between Crocodile-Man and Stingray-Man, 1963, Narritjin Maymuru, Maŋgalili clan, about 1914–1982, 94 x 62.5 cm, collected by Karel Kupka at Yirrkala. National Museum of Australia

Creatures of the Arafura Swamp, about 1984, John Bulunbulun, Gurrumba Gurrumba clan, Ganalbiŋu language, 1946–2010, 125 x 91 cm, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Affairs Art collection. National Museum of Australia

Totems of the Manharrŋu, Mortuary Rites, 1966, David Malangi, Manharrŋu clan, Manyarrŋu language, 1927–1999, 76 x 54 cm, collected by JA Davidson at Milingimbi. National Museum of Australia

Exhibition catalogue

A painting of a kangaroo with the text 'Old Masters: Australia's Great Bark Artists'

Essays from key scholars of Australian Indigenous bark painting, including Howard Morphy, Wally Caruana and Luke Taylor, present new research on the bark paintings in the Museum’s collection and the role and significance of bark paintings in the broader cultural context.

A new feature of this edition is a section on reading bark paintings, which explores the iconography of and stories behind many of the paintings from the show. The book also includes information on the styles and aesthetics of the paintings, and biographical information about the artists.

ISBN: 978-1-921953-34-7
310mm high x 205mm wide, 256 pp, full colour
National Museum of Australia Press, July 2018
$A39.95 at the National Museum Shop or

Buy online now


An international touring exhibition produced by the National Museum of Australia.

Old Masters: Australia's Great Bark Artists is supported by the Australian Government through the Australia–China Council of the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade.

The exhibition has been on show at:

  • National Museum of China, Beijing, 4 July to 2 September 2018
  • Shanghai Natural History Museum, 15 November 2018 to 6 January 2019
  • Shenzhen Museum, 13 April to 26 May 2019
  • Sichuan Museum, 26 June to 25 August 2019


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