Reaktion Books

Double Nation: A History of Australian Art

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Ian McLean
250mm x 190mm

In this major new account Ian McLean traces the history of Australian art, from colonial art practice to the search for a national art in the twentieth century. Two key themes structure the narrative: the transformation of a British art practice into an Australian one; and the troubled pursuit for the aesthetic means to claim an Indigenous heritage. As well as introducing the canonical artists and artworks of the Australian tradition, McLean assesses why certain artists have come to prominence, and why others have been neglected. In the process, he links the changing fortunes of artists to social and political developments both at home and abroad. With 170 superb illustrations, many in colour, this is essential reading for all interested in the history of Australian art.

'Any history of Australian art must be, at minimum, a double history: of art made by Indigenous artists since the Dreaming, and, since the eighteenth century, of the art of the colonizers. Double Nation tells the second part of this story with vigor and critical irreverence, rehearsing but also challenging the conventional landmarks of Australian art history. A fresh narrative emerges: more complex, more reflective, doubled.' — Terry Smith, Andrew W. Mellon Professor of Contemporary Art History and Theory, University of Pittsburgh, and author of Art to Come: Histories of Contemporary Art (2019)

Ian McLean is the Hugh Ramsay Chair of Australian Art History at the University of Melbourne.