Untitled (Hunting Story) natural earth pigments on eucalyptus bark 86 x 44cm
PROVENANCE: Painted in North-East Arnhem Land circa 1950 The Barratt-Brown Collection, New York Sotheby's, Important Aboriginal Art, Melbourne, 29 June 1998, lot 10 Private collection
Cf. For several related paintings by the artist painted in 1948 see Charles P. Mountford, Records of the American-Australian Scientific Expedition to Arnhem Land, vol 1: Art, Myth and Symbolism, Melbourne: Melbourne University Press, 1956, pp.267-388.
Munggarawuy Yunupingu was the leader of the Gumatj clan of the Yolgnu people in north-east Arnhem Land. He was father of the respected politician and chairman of the Northern Lands Council Galarrwuy Yunupingu and Mandawuy Yunupingu, lead singer and founder of the band Yothu Yindi.
Howard Morphy, in his entry dedicated to the Yunupingu family within the Oxford Companion to Aboriginal Art and Culture notes that the artist was 'One of the leaders in their [the Yolgnu] fight for land rights, when tenure of their land was threatened by mining interests in the 1960s and 1970s, and was a contributor to the Yirrkala bark petition. Munggarawuy was one of the first artists to produce bark paintings for sale to the missionary Wilbur Chaseling in 1935, and later contributed to Dr. Stuart Scougall's collection at the Art Gallery of New South Wales. He helped to develop the episodic narrative of paintings characteristic of Yolgnu art from the 1960s to the 1980s and was one of the Yirritja moiety who contributed to the Yirrkala Church Panels' (S. Kleinert and M. Neal (eds.), The Oxford Companion to Aboriginal Art and Culture, Melbourne: Oxford University Press, 2000, p.744).
This painting is unusually large for this early period. While this work does not have any documentation, it is thought to represent an ancestral hunter surrounded by a plethora of fauna, bird and sea-life from the region. Most unusually in the upper register there appears to be a painting within a painting, a smaller version of the larger picture.