Andrew Sayers

Many good books are published about Australian art, but few change the way we see and understand it. When Andrew Sayers’ ​Aboriginal Artists of the Nineteenth Century appeared in August 1994, it immediately did that, as the critic Bruce James was quick to recognise

Bernard Smith, who died in September 2011, was responsible for creating the first orthodoxy in Australian art history. His version of the story of Australian art has been persuasive and enduring. It held sway for half a century; in many ways we are still living with it. Smith’s classic account of the development of Australian art was Australian Painting, first published in 1962 and reprinted with updates in 1971, 1991, and 2001.

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Andrew Sayers has one large and important idea that distinguishes his account of Australian art from all others: the story must include equal attention to Aboriginal art and to the art of white European settlement. However commanding and commendatory the idea, it will not, I suspect, be a popular one.

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