UNKNOWN ABORIGINAL CRAFTWORKER, Pair of verandah chairs Enlarge 1 /1


Taree, New South Wales, Australia

Pair of verandah chairs 1903
Collection Title: A pair of arm chairs
Place made: Taree, New South Wales, Australia
Materials & Technique: furniture, chairs, hardwood, cabbage tree palm Support: cabbage tree palm (Livistona australis)

Dimensions: 87.0 h x 66.0 w x 63.0 d cm 87.0 h x 66.0 w x 63.0 d
Acknowledgement: Purchased 1985
Accession No: NGA 85.121-122

Even after a century, relatively little is known about these objects; however, a number of interpretations are valid. The following are two elucidatory readings by different curators at the National Gallery of Australia.

‘These chairs were made by the men of the Aboriginal fishing community of Taree in northern New South Wales. They are rumoured to be based on the design of an English verandah chair and this is the wonderful result of the artisan’s interpretation of the design using local materials. The Taree fishermen were very talented carpenters. They made their own boats and also sets of verandah furniture for the local farmers for extra cash when the fish weren’t biting. These sets usually included two chairs and a sofa. The only other set of which we are aware is in the collection of the Powerhouse Museum, Sydney, and is painted black.’

(Jim Logan, Everyday Art: Australian Folk Art, 1998, p. 17)

The scant information on the chairs’ provenance reveals that they belonged to a Mr McInnes from the Dunmore Estate at Patterson, approximately 120 km to the south-west of Taree. This indicates the following owner of the property bought the chairs from the estate, but later possibly sold them to a merchant.

Near Taree, Purfleet Aboriginal Reserve was officially established in 1900 when the Aborigines Protection Board obtained control over 18 acres of land two miles from the centre of Taree.

(Further reading, see ‘Purfleet and Taree’ in Penny Taylor (ed.), After 200 Years: Photographic essays of Aboriginal and Islander Australia today, 1988, p. 19)

Text © National Gallery of Australia, Canberra