top of page

Australian Art

Australian Art history was shaped by the first Australian-born art historian, Bernard Smith’s canonical book, Australian Painting 1788 – 1960.

He founded the Art History Studies in Australia and wrote several more books on Australian art.

Aboriginal Australian art can be dated back to at least 30,000 years and original examples can be found in national parks such as Kakadu, Uluru, Ku-ring-gai Chase and Murujuga.

Indigenous and Western Australian art is represented in major museums and galleries such as National Gallery of Australia, Art Gallery of NSW, National Portrait Gallery of Australia, National Museum of Australia and National Gallery of Victoria.

The artists of Heidelberg School of the 1880s -1890s were often considered to be the first true representatives of Australian Art in that they tried to recreate the true colours of the Australian pastoral and wild landscape. Key figures were Tom Roberts, Arthur Streeton, Frederick McCubbin,Charles Conder and later Merric Boyd and Sydney Long.

In the 20 century, Europe became aware of Australian art through Rupert Bunny and other bohemian painters and sculptors.

Plein air painters such as Arthur Streeton and Hans Heysen also made a mark, the latter winning the Wynne Prize nine times.

The Archibald Prize for portraiture was founded in 1921bringing William Dobell to prominence as one of the winners.

This period also produced many prominent names in Australian art such as Arthur Boyd, Albert Tucker, followed by artists whose work helped to establish an Australian identity: Sidney Nolan- best known for his images of Ned Kelly- Fred Wiliams, Arthur Boyd, Clifton Pugh, Albert Tucker; then William Dobell, Russell Drysdale, Charles Blackman, John Brack and Donald Friend.

After the influx of migrants from Europe around 1950, the art scene in Australia underwent a radical change with emerging artists from a non English speaking backround, such Vladas Meskenas, Vaclovas Ratas, Henry Salkauskas, Eva Kubos., Salvatore Zofrea, Ulrich Stalph. According to the 2002 Australia Council artists survey, 40 % of Australian artists from a non-English speaking background are from Europe, which includes countries annexed by the former Soviet Union, such as Lithuania, Latvia, Estonia, Poland and others. If a survey respondent said that English was not the first language they learned, they were classified as coming from a non-English speaking background. Artists from a non-English speaking background born outside of Australia


bottom of page