Unknown woman and baby 1

Julie DOWLING: artist

Not On Display

About the work

This painting shows a mother and child in European clothes. The
original photograph was taken in the late 19th Century and is part of the
Hume Collection at the University of Queensland. The photographer
is unknown. These photographs were used as postcards and curios, as
well as evidence of religious and scientific superiority over our women as
exotic ‘others’.
I wanted this painting to be an essay on assimilation and the transitions
between the lifestyle of the mother and her baby. The baby would have
grown to have more exposure to western culture as symbolised by her
red dress. The mother is silent and thoughtful avoiding the viewer as if
wishing to be left to be free from the western gaze.
I paint such women because they are ‘unknown’ individuals whose spirit
lives on only in the draws of museums. I am claiming these images
and re-interpreting or translating them for my family, and myself, as
First Nation people today. There are references to Catholic religious
iconography especially to the ‘Madonna and child’ symbolism seen in
Renaissance art.
Unknown woman and baby 1
Artist/Maker and role
Julie DOWLING: artist
synthetic polymer paint, red ochre, glitter and metallic paint on canvas
91.0 x 71.0 cm
Credit line
Gift of Brigitte Braun, 2017
The State Art Collection, The Art Gallery of Western Australia
Accession number

This is one of the paintings in our collection.