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William Barak Figures in possum skin cloaks 1898

William Barak
Figures in possum skin cloaks 1898

Barak’s drawing style, evident in this late career drawing, is vigorous, eloquent and reliant upon strong, textural outline. The work, which retains the original pigments – a mixture of ochres, watercolour and crusty, carbon-based pigment – has no background wash but includes a line of trees in lateral perspective, the foliage of which is painted with a dry-brush technique. These trees, which form the uppermost horizontal layer in the composition, are placed at very regular intervals between each pair of male elders wearing cloaks patterned alternatively with verticals and parallel meanders. These totemic designs emboldened with black stand out strongly in the composition and project across space.