Elizabeth Durack

Elizabeth Durack was born in Perth in 1915, the daughter of Kimberley region pastoralist and pioneer Michael Durack and younger sister of writer and historian Mary Durack. She showed an interest in art at an early age and based much of her art on her experiences of life in northern Western Australia and her interest in the local Aboriginal people. She was notable as one of the first white artists to adopt indigenous painting techniques in her work.

She started exhibiting her work in 1946 and throughout the course of her life she held over 60 solo exhibitions as well as participating in many group exhibitions both in Australia and overseas.

In 1968 Durack was invited by the Australian Federal Minister for Territories and Minister for External Territories to travel to Papua New Guinea to record images of women as the nation progressed towards independence. Durack created hundreds of insightful drawings and photographs, including portraits of women of higher social standing such as teachers and nuns, as well as sketches of women going about their daily lives in their local villages.

In the 1990s Durack started to create artworks under the name Eddie Burrup, representing herself as a male Aboriginal artist, although she did not disclose the fact that Eddie Burrup was her nom de plume until 2000. This created great controversy and she was highly criticised by many who believed her actions were incredibly offensive to the Aboriginal art community. Durack herself was apparently shocked by the controversy and insisted that Eddie Burrup was simply a persona she created “to obtain independent assessment of a breakthrough in work and ideas that had been gestating for years”. She continued to create artworks as Eddie Burrup until just before her death in 2000.

In 2016 the Australian National University acquired a collection of 410 drawings Durack created while in Papua New Guinea. These have been digitised and can be found on the ANU Library website - http://library-admin.anu.edu.au/collections/elizabeth-durack-collection/index.html