Rethinking Australia’s Art History: The Challenge of Aboriginal Art, 1st Edition (Hardback) book cover

Rethinking Australia’s Art History

The Challenge of Aboriginal Art, 1st Edition

By Susan Lowish


221 pages | 18 Color Illus. | 43 B/W Illus.

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Hardback: 9780815374176
pub: 2018-05-24
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This book aims to redefine Australia’s earliest art history by chronicling for the first time the birth of the category "Aboriginal art," tracing the term’s use through published literature in the late eighteenth, nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Susan Lowish reveals how the idea of "Aboriginal art" developed in the European imagination, manifested in early literature, and became a distinct classification with its own criteria and form. Part of the larger story of Aboriginal/European engagement, this book provides a new vision for an Australian art history reconciled with its colonial origins and in recognition of what came before the contemporary phenomena of Aboriginal art.


"The book will be valued by scholars of Aboriginal art, Aboriginal studies, Australian art history, the history and philosophy of science, and art historiography. The breadth of sources and the defined focus of the study do indeed allow for a rethinking of Australia’s art history. May it stimulate more research into the period from 1788 to 1929, challenge and refine current cannons on Aboriginal art, and provoke a lively debate within art history!"

- Journal of Art Historiography

Table of Contents

Introduction 1. Writing a History of Encounters 2. Exploration and ‘Discovery’ 3. Searching for the Origin of Art 4. Seeing the Art of the First Australians 5. Evolutionists and Australian Aboriginal Art 6. ‘Aboriginal Art’ in the Writings of Baldwin Spencer 7. Collecting and Exhibiting: the Dawn of ‘Primitive Art’ Conclusion

About the Author

Susan Lowish is Lecturer in Australian Art History at the University of Melbourne.

About the Series

Studies in Art Historiography

Studies in Art Historiography
The aim of this series is to support and promote the study of the history and practice of art historical writing focussing on its institutional and conceptual foundations, from the past to the present day in all areas and all periods. Besides addressing the major innovators of the past it also encourages re-thinking ways in which the subject may be written in the future. It ignores the disciplinary boundaries imposed by the Anglophone expression 'art history' and allows and encourages the full range of enquiry that encompasses the visual arts in its broadest sense as well as topics falling within archaeology, anthropology, ethnography and other specialist disciplines and approaches. It welcomes contributions from young and established scholars and is aimed at building an expanded audience for what has hitherto been a much specialised topic of investigation. It complements the work of the Journal of Art Historiography.

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Subject Categories

BISAC Subject Codes/Headings:
ART / History / General
ART / Art & Politics
ART / Australian & Oceanian
HISTORY / Australia & New Zealand
HISTORY / Historiography
HISTORY / Modern / 18th Century
HISTORY / Modern / 19th Century
HISTORY / Modern / 20th Century
POLITICAL SCIENCE / Colonialism & Post-Colonialism
SOCIAL SCIENCE / Indigenous Studies