Unknown ARTIST, Hunter and emu Enlarge 1 /1

On display on Level 1

Unknown ARTIST

Australia unknown – unknown

Hunter and emu pre 1914 Place made: Gunbalanya (Oenpelli), Western Arnhem Land, Northern Territory, Australia
Materials & Technique: paintings, bark paintings, natural earth pigments on eucalyptus bark

Dimensions: 95.8 h x 54.0 w cm
Acknowledgement: Purchased 2005
Accession No: NGA 2005.54

Hunter and emu 1950s is a classic example of an early western Arnhem Land bark painting from Gunbalanya (Oenpelli). A male hunter holds a raised spear-thrower in one hand and grass stalks to camouflage himself in the other. A stone-tipped spear extends from the end of the spear-thrower into the emu’s back. A dilly bag hangs from his shoulder and four types of spears are painted below. The emu is twisted to fit into the rectangular space of the bark sheet, with legs bent at the knees and facing opposite directions, suggesting the emu is sitting or has just fallen to the ground. Internal features, such as organs and backbone, are depicted and both the hunter and the emu are infilled with hatching, solid colour and some dots. The emu has eyes attached to optic nerves, indications of feathers and very large, exaggerated middle toes. 

An interesting aspect of this work is its resemblance to a rock painting in nearby Kakadu National Park. At that site a hunter in the old dynamic figure style, at least 10 000 years of age, hides himself by similarly holding grass. A spear protrudes from an emu’s breast and a trajectory line leads back to the hunter’s raised arm. The rock painting also has hatched infill and depicts some of the emu’s internal features, feathers and very large middle toes. Whether the bark artist was inspired by the ancient rock painting is an interesting question, but certainly Hunter and emu resembles another painting, a 1973 bark in the Australian Museum by the artist Wamud Namok[1] and may be one of his early works.

Paul Taçon

[1] In accordance with tradition the names of the recently deceased are not uttered, and this artist is currently referred to by this alternative name. For the sake of clarity, the artist is Bardayal Nadjamerrek.


Text © National Gallery of Australia, Canberra 2010
From: Franchesca Cubillo and Wally Caruana (eds) Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Art: collection highlights National Gallery of Australia, Canberra, 2010

This painting by a Kuninjku artist from Western Arnhem Land depicts a hunter and the carcass of a speared emu. Executed in the ‘x-ray’ style specific to Western Arnhem Land, its portrayal of internal and external features is analogous with the Aboriginal practice of distinguishing ‘inside’ knowledge that is ceremonially sensitive and ‘outside’ information that can be publicly revealed. The careful articulation of the emu’s internal organs delineates the rules among the Kuninjku for the distribution of cuts of meat to people according to their status, with elders first and so on, through to non-initiated members.

Despite the small size of the hunter, relative to the size of the emu, his upright combative stance and the strong linearity of the spears suggest great power, and contrast strikingly with the subtle inclination of the emu’s neck, the curvature of its feet and the rounded plumpness of its soft, feathered body.

This work is the oldest bark painting in the National Gallery of Australia’s collection. Its similarity in content and appearance to a rock painting at an emu hunter site on the Western Arnhem Land escarpment suggests it was commissioned as a reproduction by a European collector.


Text © National Gallery of Australia, Canberra 2010
From: Ron Radford (ed), Collection highlights: National Gallery of Australia, National Gallery of Australia, Canberra, 2008

An unknown Kuninjku artist executed this depiction of a hunter and the carcass of a speared emu in the X-ray style specific to Western Arnhem Land in the Northern Territory. The portrayal of internal and external features is analogous with the Aboriginal practice of distinguishing ‘inside’ knowledge, which is ceremonially sensitive, and ‘outside’ information, which can be publicly revealed. The careful articulation of the emu’s internal organs delineates the rules among the Kuninjku for the distribution of cuts of meat to people according to their status, with elders first and so on through to non-initiated members.

The hunter’s upright combative stance and the strong linearity of the spear thrust into the emu’s back suggests great power and contrasts strikingly with the subtle inclination of the emu’s neck, the curvature of its legs and the rounded plumpness of its soft, feathered body. Its similarity in content and appearance to a rock painting at an emu hunter site in Kakadu National Park suggests it may be a reproduction commissioned by a European collector.


Text © National Gallery of Australia, Canberra 2014
From: Collection highlights: National Gallery of Australia, National Gallery of Australia, Canberra, 2014

艺术家:未知
《猎手与鸸鹋》(Hunter and emu)
1914年前
桉树皮,天然色料
95.80(高) x 54.00(宽)厘米
2005年购买
2005.54

创作于1950年代的《猎手与鸸鹋》来自岗巴兰亚(Gunbalanya) (或欧恩佩里(Oenpelli)),是早期西阿纳姆地(Arnhem Land)树皮画的经典示例。一位男猎人一只手举着竖起的掷矛杆,另一只手握着草秸伪装自己。从掷矛杆一端延伸出来的石尖矛插入鸸鹋的背部。他肩上挎着一个网袋,网袋下部绘有四种矛。鸸鹋扭曲着身子以适合矩形的树皮空间,双腿在膝盖处弯曲,面向相反方向,表明鸸鹋是坐姿,或刚刚掉到地上。像器官和脊柱之类的内部特征均有描述,猎人和鸸鹋都用画影线、实色和一些斑点进行了写实。鸸鹋的眼睛连着视神经,勾勒出了羽毛,中趾很大,非常夸张。

这件作品有趣的是它与邻近卡卡杜国家公园(Kakadu National Park)的岩画相似。国家公园里,至少已有10000年历史的古老动态图风格岩画中,一位猎人同样手握草秸伪装自己。一只矛从鸸鹋的胸部刺出,一条轨迹线引回至猎人高举的手臂。岩画也用画影线写实并描绘了鸸鹋的一些内部特征、羽毛和很大的中趾。树皮画家灵感是否源于古老岩画是一个很有趣的问题,但可以肯定的是,《猎人与鸸鹋》类似另外一幅画,澳大利亚博物馆收藏的由艺术家瓦穆德·纳莫科(Wamud Namok)于1973年创作的一幅树皮画,也许是一件他的早期作品。

Paul Tacon
保罗·塔空


Text © National Gallery of Australia, Canberra