On a continent first settled by maritime peoples roughly 50,000 years ago, Australia’s aboriginal peoples still practice one of the world’s oldest continuous artistic traditions. Australian rock art is some of the most spectacular in the world.
Today these ancient artistic traditions live on in a variety of media and motifs, including the polychrome bark paintings of Arnhem Land—imbued with both myth and mystery. For many years, the traditional arts of the Australian Aboriginal people were of interest primarily as anthropological or ethnographic curiosities.
In the 1960s, however, these remarkable bark paintings featuring natural pigments applied to flattened eucalyptus bark panels captured the imagination of international collectors and curators. These beautiful works are now found in the finest art museums and private collections around the world. The Museum of Natural and Cultural History is proud to have 23 Aboriginal bark paintings in its global ethnographic collections, all of which are depicted in this web gallery of photos by Steve Wilkinson. These wonderful artworks were gifts from Jane and Robert Gehring, Hayasdan Wallace, and Ashley Foster. Images © UO Museum of Natural and Cultural History. Production of this gallery was generously supported by The Ford Family Foundation.
Two turtles and two echidnas, Gunwinggu Tribe, Kroken Island, West Arnhem Land 26.25" x 13.75"
Wawilak sisters story by Lipundji Milingimbi Island, Crocodile Isle, North Arnhem Land 21.75" x 11"
Four human figures and a kangaroo, Milingimba, Crocodile Island, North Arnhem Land 25.5" x 15.25"
Three human figures, two birds, and two snakes, Yirrkalla, Northeast Arnhem Land 31.5" x 16.5"