UNTITLED, c.1965

Important Aboriginal + Oceanic Art
24 March 2010

Wattie Karrawara

(c.1910 - 1983)
UNTITLED, c.1965

watercolour and gouache on paper

56.0 x 76.0 cm

inscribed verso: McCaffrey Collection cat. 22

$30,000 - 40,000
Sold for $30,000 (inc. BP) in Auction 13 - 24 March 2010, Melbourne

Commissioned by John McCaffrey
Sotheby’s, The John McCaffrey Collection of Kimberley Art, Sydney, 28 July 2003, lot 15
Private collection, New South Wales

Catalogue text

The two watercolours by Wattie Karrawara included in this auction were part of a larger group of paintings from 1965, commissioned by American anthropologist John McCaffrey. The watercolours, 38 in total, show many of the characters or scenes which typically form part of the Wandjina cosmological repertoire. In the work above, the composition appears to be transposed from what would have been an overhang of rock, the Wandjina-type figures hover with their attendant beings and totemic creatures.

Concerned with the establishment of social orders, Wandjina have totemic associations and are often represented, as above, with accompanying animals and plants. In the caves and on the rocks walls of the Kimberley where Wandjina are rendered are often representations of birds, kangaroos, fish and plants. This was noted in 1930 by missionary Reverend J.R.B. Love as ‘the belief is that wherever the picture of an object of food is preserved in a picture cave, there the object will continue to flourish and increase.’1

1. Love, J.R.B., ‘Rock paintings of the Worrora and Their Mythical Interpretation’, The Journal of the Royal Society of Western Australia, 1930, Vol. 16