Tommy McRae was an indigenous artist born in the 1830s who for much of his life lived and worked around Wahgunyah in NSW. He was known by several names including Tommy Barnes and by his Aboriginal name Yackaduna or Warra-euea. It is thought that he was from the Kwatkwat or Wiradjuri people whose country included the Murray River down to the Goulburn River in Victoria.
Tommy had a wife Lily and four children. He worked as a stockman for local pastoralists before devoting himself to the development of his art practice. His status as an artist developed and his sketch books were sought after by patrons and European customers. He distinguished himself amongst his contemporaries as an independent and forthright man, who chose to wear European clothing and didn’t drink alcohol or smoke.
Tommy McRae’s sketches recorded the changes to his society and documented the establishment of the local white pastoralist settler society. He received payment for creating records of his view of colonisation and his stories of dispossession and ongoing cultural vitality.
Although undated, the work held by Benalla Art Gallery shows McRae’s characteristic animation-like style. His artistic approach has been described as, ‘compiling frame after frame of illustrations, chapters of Aboriginal daily life and [the] impacts of colonisation in simple and uncoloured truth’.
His work can be found in museum and gallery collections across the country, including the State Library of NSW, the Art Gallery of NSW, the National Gallery of Australia, the National Museum of Australia and the National Gallery of Victoria.
Image: Tommy McRae, One tribe defeated by another (not dated)
pen and ink on paper
24 x 35 cm
Purchased with funds provided by the Robert Salzer Foundation, through the Public Galleries Association of Victoria Inc 2006