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

Rethinking Australia’s Art History
The Challenge of Aboriginal Art

ISBN 9781032095417
Published June 30, 2021 by Routledge
236 Pages 18 Color & 43 B/W Illustrations

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Book Description

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.

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

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


Winner of the 2019 Art Association of Australia & New Zealand's Best Book Prize

"Tracing the development of the category of ‘Aboriginal Art’ in the European imagination, Dr Lowish tackles one of the central questions confronting Australian art history and does this with originality and academic integrity. It is a very intelligent publication that is lucid in its expression and accessible to most readers. There is very solid and scrupulous scholarship that lies at the core of this exceptional publication."

--AAANZ prize committee

"Rethinking Australia’s Art History tells of the fascinating pre-history of an art movement that will emerge victorious from the shadows of racism and conquest. Lowish’s book is a crucial reference point for anyone interested in making sense of how concepts of Aboriginality came to dominate the interpretation of art from frontiers of Australian colonisation."

--Australian and New Zealand Journal of 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