CANBERRA.- The National Museum of Australia
has acquired two pen and ink drawings of a significant moment in Australian history drawn by an Aboriginal artist of the nineteenth century.
Buckleys Escape, drawn by the Aboriginal artist Tommy McRae (c.1835 1901) re-creates the scene in Victoria when a convict, William Buckley the wild white man , escaped and spent the next thirty-two years living with Aboriginal people before returning to European colonial life.
Tommy McRae lived in the Upper Murray, Victoria where he made and sold books of drawings, he is one of only a few Aboriginal artists who depicted life in 19th century Australia.
William Buckleys story is one of the great Australian stories from the period of early European colonization and contact. What is significant about Tommy McRaes drawing is his treatment of William Buckleys story from an Aboriginal perspective. The work contrasts with the way European artists tell Buckleys story. For them the climatic point was the end of his three decades with Aboriginal people; for McRae it was the moment of Buckleys entry into the Aboriginal world, said Andrew Sayers, Director of the National Museum of Australia.
The National Museum of Australia paid $79,300 for Buckleys Escape including auction house commission and GST and $24,400 for another of McRaes drawings, Murray Tribal Warfare, which shows Aboriginal people fighting in northern Victoria.
Both of the McRae drawings were held by the same NSW family since they were bought directly from Tommy McRae in the 1890s.
The National Historic Collection, which is held by the National Museum of Australia, includes another sketchbook by Tommy McRae, which was acquired in 1986, as well as other works by 19th century Aboriginal artists including William Barak and the pen and ink drawings by the artist known only as Oscar of Cooktown.