elizabeth durack

elizabeth durack


The art of Elizabeth Durack is an integral part of Australia’s cultural heritage — part of our 'blood’s country'. Long before it became acceptable or even fashionable her art challenged our perceptions of our land and its people...

Maureen Smith
catalogue notes from Out of Sight – Out of Mind
Alexander Library, Perth Cultural Centre, February – March 1991


Elizabeth Durack’s portrayal of figures within the Western Australian Kimberley landscape and the transmuting of its landscape into figures is a recurring theme in her work. Interwoven with the whole is an Australian-Irish-Aboriginal sensibility that reflects the artist’s background, outlook and experience.

Over a long productive life the art of Elizabeth Durack evolved from simple line drawings, through lyrical watercolours, to part-abstraction and allegorical paintings. Rare among artists, Durack’s gift reached its peak towards the end. The work of her last creative phase — The Art of Eddie Burrup transcends all that went before.

A substantial body of written material complements the visual works.

Elizabeth Durack was the third of six children born to Michael Patrick Durack and Bess Ida Muriel (b. Johnstone); and a granddaughter of the pioneer Irishman Patrick (Patsy) Durack, a life recorded by Mary Durack in the Australian classic Kings in Grass Castles.


elizabeth durack artwork

The Kid 1947
watercolour, 80x52cm
private collection Melbourne Australia

...although I may continue to paint Australian Aborigines with increasing exactitude and literacy I look in painting them not only at native people but beyond them to all human beings. They are the notes, the words if you like, the movements, the expression of thought and idea in general...

Elizabeth Durack
Signature 1948 mss
Ivanhoe East Kimberley Western Australia
elizabeth durack artwork

War and Peace 1947
oil on canvas, 180x240cm
from the estate of Elizabeth Durack

Her work is unique in the panorama of Australian art. Its provenance is the soil itself and the indigenous people... through her art she has been revealing Aboriginality for decades.

Jan Mayman
The National Times Sydney
January 1982
elizabeth durack artwork

Gregory 1979
acrylic on double primed canvas, 120x150cm
from the series ...black swan of trespass...
collection Museum and Art Gallery of the Northern Territory

...evocative images. This work has been influenced by primitive art.

Ward Jackson
Guggenhein Museum
New York USA, 1979
elizabeth durack artwork

Some see it as spectator sport... 1980s
acrylic on canvas on board, 122x92cm
from the series The Rim, the rim of our brittle and disintegrating world...
from the estate of Elizabeth Durack

Shapes, forms, symbols... have become a sort of personal calligraphy wherein familiar silhouettes and figures imprisoned in landscape can be discerned. Recent compositions encompass turbulence and disintegration on a grand scale and incorporate the widespread sense of deep disquiet lying at the core of the last decades of our century...

with Maud Kemp
Australian Artist
Chatswood NSW, October 1988
elizabeth durack artwork

The eagle-hawk guided spear 1954
oil on pressed wood, 94x125cm
from the series Love Magic — a sequence of ten
private collection Perth Western Australia

...throughout her career, Elizabeth Durack has never stood still to watch the world pass. She has constantly sought it out. Central to her approach has been the desire to find new ways of expressing her beliefs and vision...

Janda Gooding
Derivations and Directions — Elizabeth Durack 1930s – 1950s
Art Gallery of Western Australia, March - April 1995
elizabeth durack artwork

The coming of gudea 1997
diptych, mixed media on linen, 188x184cm
from the series The Art of Eddie Burrup
private collection Melbourne Australia

The Eddie Burrup paintings represent an extraordinary creative leap for an artist in the twilight of her career... they sum up a lifetime’s experience of Aboriginal people and have been made with consummate skill... They may yet be accepted as some of Elizabeth Durack’s most important and original works.

John McDonald
The Sydney Morning Herald
12 March 1997