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