Early Australian Art History

The art of Australia’s early history includes several movements beginning with the influences of the Aborigines and working up to the Colonial, Modern and Contemporary eras. Starting with the Aboriginal way of life, the influence of art is detectable in everything from the pottery and jewelry that was made as well as in the depictions put upon cave walls. The “artistic touch” has even been represented by the ritual body markings used in ceremonial dances and during times of war. All of this began within a period of at least 40,000 years ago, long before what we consider to be art in today’s time.

Many forms and mediums were used in Australia’s Colonial times. While browsing through shop windows of that era, one notes the existence of glassware, sculpture, painting and architecture that maintain an artistic flavor. Perhaps some of these items were considered more of a necessity back in their day and not so much as art, with the exception of items such as paintings and certain forms of sculpture. Early history of any country relates that what is now seen as ornate artwork was once a thing of need to someone else.

It is interesting to note that many of the painters and sculptors of Colonial Australia weren’t originally from this continent. Most of them in fact, were nomads, gypsies and escaped or released convicts; so much of the art of this time will show an influence from other towns and countries. Through the More Modern periods of the art movement, which began within the late 1800s and existed well into the latter half of the 20th century, we find an even larger scale of painters and sculptors living in the region. This is a period where there became a broader range of topics in these two mediums worldwide. It begins with the influences of the Impressionistic Period and ends with the start of new age of Pop Art.Contemporary Art then takes over from the 1970s and beyond and as with anywhere else in the world again, this is the period for which most artists have gained an understanding from prior periods, making the entire Australian continent a kind of “Mecca” where art is concerned.