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Tommy McRAE

Kwatkwat people

Australia c.1835 – 1901

Melbourne tribe, Victoria - war dance 1890's
Collection Title: Sketchbook of Aboriginal activities
Place made: Wahgunyah, Victoria, Australia
Materials & Technique: drawings, sketchbooks, drawing in pen and iron-gall ink and pen and blue ink Support: cream wove paper

Dimensions: sheet 23.8 h x 36.0 w cm
Acknowledgement: Purchased 1994
Accession No: NGA 94.1232.22
  • Purchased by the National Gallery of Australia, from Christie's Australia, Sydney, August 1994;
  • From the auction, 'Australian and european paintings, drawings, prints and sculpture', Sydney: Christie's Australia, 14-15 August 1994, lot 31.

Tommy McRae was the most versatile of the nineteenth-century Aboriginal artists. His sketchbooks, which were produced for a western audience, abound with images ranging from individual studies of birds, to hunting scenes, corroborees, dances, skirmishing groups of Aboriginal men, Aboriginal men in western dress, squatters, Chinese people and historical scenes.

Known variously as Yackaduna, Tommy Barnes and Thommy McCrare, Tommy McRae was born in Albury and spent his life in the district around Wahgunyah, the Yackandandah River and Lake Moodemere, where the majority of his known drawings were executed. He was a well-informed man who attempted to maintain a life independent of government interference. His second wife Lily could read and write, and in the late 1890s McRae used the European legal system to seek monies owing to him by a photographer.

Drawings by McRae had been collected by the artist Theresa Walker in the early 1860s and it was around this time that McRae met Roderick Kilborn, a Justice of the Peace, vigneron and telegraph master, who was to become his chief patron. Kilborn supplied the artist with paper and drawing materials, usually in the form of commercial note or sketchbooks and pens and ink—black, purple, blue and sometimes red.

By the 1880s McRae was producing sketchbooks of drawings on commission from settlers in the area as well as travellers who sought out his camp. This provided the artist, who was noted as being non-drinking and industrious, with money to purchase a horse and buggy from which he would sell such items as possum-skin rugs and Murray cod.

The corroboree was one of McRae’s favourite subjects. Melbourne tribe, Victoria—war dancec 1890s is typical. A line of Aboriginal men, two deep, occupies the whole width of the sketchbook page. Their bodies are painted in geometrical designs, they have bunches of leaves tied below their knees. In their hands they hold short spears or clap sticks, with which they confront each other or raise above their heads as they dance. Above to the right is a smaller but related drawing, which shows a standing ‘leader’ with headdress marking the rhythm for a group of three women who are perhaps beating possum skins stretched across their legs.

The story of William Buckley, a convict who absconded in 1803 and lived with the Victorian Aboriginal people for the next 32 years, was well known. The story was popular with McRae, who often portrayed aspects of the narrative including Buckley’s first meeting with Aboriginal people and his participation in Aboriginal life, such as dancing in corroborees.

McRae did not inscribe his drawings with titles—these were added by the owner of the album, sometimes after explanations by the artist. Victorian BlacksMelbourne tribe holding corroboree after seeing ships for the first time is a variation on the Buckley theme. The three-masted ship (probably drawn from a newspaper jobber’s block) dramatically enters from the upper left, setting the scene for the corroboree below. McRae is again particular in his observation: the dancers are decorated with body paint, have leaves tied below their knees and flag-like headdresses. A centrally placed tree with a possum in its lower branches is frequently used motif.

Roger Butler

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

汤米·麦克雷 (Tommy McRae)
《维多利亚墨尔本部落——战阵舞》(Melbourne tribe, Victoria - war dance)
23.8(高) x 36.0(宽)厘米
分类目录: 31区 = 拍卖 1994年8月14日
收录号:NGA 94.1232.22


汤米·麦克雷以亚卡杜纳(Yackaduna)、汤米·巴恩斯(Tommy Barnes)和托米·麦克拉里(Thommy McCrare)多个名字著称,他出生于奥尔伯里(Albury),一生生活在瓦根亚、雅坎丹达河(Yackandandah River)和木德米尔湖(Lake Moodemere)周围地区,其名画多数在此地创作完成。他知识渊博,洁身自好,不附庸政府。第二任妻子莉莉(Lily)能读会写,1890年代末,麦克雷使用欧洲法律系统向一位摄影师追讨欠债。

艺术家特丽萨·沃克(Theresa Walker)1860年代初开始收藏麦克雷的画作,大约这一时期,麦克雷结识了太平绅士、葡萄种植人兼电报局长的罗德里克·吉尔伯恩(Roderick Kilborn),后来成为了他的主要赞助人。吉尔伯恩向艺术家提供纸张和绘画材料,通常形式为商业本票或写生薄和笔墨——黑墨水、紫墨水、蓝墨水,有时还有红墨水。



威廉·巴克利(William Buckley)是一名犯人,于1803年逃亡,随后的32年时间与维多利亚土著人生活在一起,他的故事远近闻名。麦克雷喜欢这个故事,常常用绘画描绘故事的部分内容,包括巴克利与土著人的初次见面以及他参与土著人生活的情形,如夜间祭祀舞蹈。

麦克雷的画作没有题名;题名是画册收藏者后来聆听了艺术家的解释后加上去的。《维多利亚土著人——墨尔本部落第一次看见船后举行的夜间祭祀》(Victorian Blacks—Melbourne tribe holding corroboree after seeing ships for the first time )是巴克利主题的变奏曲。三桅船(或许是从某报纸批发商街区的角度绘制的)戏剧般地从左上角驶入,为画面下部的夜间祭祀营造了背景氛围。麦克雷的观察也有独到之处:舞者装饰有人体彩绘,膝盖以下捆着叶子,并佩戴旗子一样的头饰巾。频繁使用的主题是一棵置于中心位置的树,下部分树枝上有一只袋貂。

Roger Butler

Text © National Gallery of Australia, Canberra