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Type: Journal article
Title: Paddy Compass Namadbara and Baldwin Spencer: an artist's recollection of the first commissioned Aboriginal bark paintings in Oenpelli, 1912
Author: Goldhahn, J.
Taylor, L.
Tacon, P.S.C.
May, S.
Maralngurra, G.
Citation: Australian Aboriginal Studies, 2022; 2021(2):46-65
Publisher: Australian Institute of Aboriginal Studies
Issue Date: 2022
ISSN: 0729-4352
Statement of
Joakim Goldxhahn, Luke Taylor, Paul SC Tacon, SallymK May, Gabriel Maralngurra
Abstract: This paper discusses the commencement of an Aboriginal art market focused on the production of bark paintings in Australia. It centres around Baldwin Spencer’s visit to Oenpelli, today known as Gunbalanya, in 1912. During his visit, Spencer commissioned the first collection of Aboriginal bark paintings from western Arnhem Land. This paper explores how this was perceived from an Indigenous perspective through an interview conducted more than 50 years ago with one of the artists who painted for Spencer, Paddy Compass Namadbara (c. 1891/92–1978), the first artist known to have contributed to the Spencer/Cahill Collection. The interview, conducted by Lance Bennett in 1967 and presented here for the first time in English, provides evidence for how Spencer and Patrick Cahill influenced the commissioned bark paintings by Namadbara and other artists. This new information is significant for understanding the early interactive shaping of what has become an important art market in the region.
Keywords: Paddy Compass; Namadbara; Baldwin Spencer; bark paintings; Aboriginal art; Indigenous art; Oenpelli; Paddy Cahill; Western Arnhem Land
Rights: © The Australian Institute of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Studies 2021. © in individual articles is held by the contibutor 2021
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Appears in Collections:Humanities publications

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