The below text and images are taken and adapted from Grahame L. Walsh’s 2000 publication, Bradshaw Art of the Kimberley.
Bradshaw (Gwion) sub-groups figures
Acorn Bradshaws appear to be late forms of Tassel Bradshaws, are stodgy in appearance and very basic in their decoration. Figures are mostly single or in possibly associated pairs, but are rarely in any possible group scenes or associations.
Small Round Elbow Bands appear the only decoration, but occasionally they may have very basic examples of Knobbed Three Point Sashes mounted to either side of the waist (Fig ‘A’). This distinctive apparel seems to link them in with the late Bradshaw Period, when transition is commencing to the CPF Period. The jodhpur-like legs are very much Sash Bradshaw traits (Fig ‘B’), where heavy thighs give way to miniaturised lower legs. Where feet are shown they seem to be miniature Slipper Feet in a downfacing alignment (Fig ‘A’), indicating that they predate the major change to Feet-Facing-Opposite-Direction of the Stylised Bradshaw times.
A characteristic of the group is the broad, oval head, well-defined erect forms of mostly elongated sausage-shaped headdress, which give them an ‘acorn’ appearance above shoulder level. Occasional examples may have a very simple decorative feature added from the headdress tip, such as an erect feather bundle (Fig ‘C’), a single plume (Fig ‘D’), or a single Long Tasselled Cord (Fig ‘E’).
Bland Bradshaws Bland Bradshaws are a very simplified form from the Tassel Bradshaw school, but are believed to be from the latter stages when the period of elaborate accoutrements was giving way to more humble dress. Simple Small Round Elbow Bands (A) remain their only decoration.
An interesting addition to the range of Bradshaw accoutrements, the Ankle Wings Feature, appears on these figures, and seems to remain exclusive to this group. This feature is mounted on the lower leg area, above the ankles, and is the shape of rounded ‘wings’, protruding mostly horizontally, but varying in alignment between 30˚ and 70˚. Although distinctly different, the Ankle Wings Feature (B) may have evolved from the Top Boot Feature associated with some Sash and Tassel Bradshaws.
These figures are normally solitary, simply ‘standing’ with very slightly backswept legs, arms hanging, holding nothing in their small outstretched fingers. Headdress becomes very basic, devoid of even a Pompom Tip, and has more of a basic round-tipped, drooped, sausage shape. Waist decoration (C) is only a Small Cummerbund, with no attachments or appendages.
A noteworthy characteristic of this group is the introduction of striated lines (D) replacing solid infill on selected areas of the body, occasionally on the upper torso, and mostly on head and headdress. Occasionally the head is formed by an outlined oval, but arms and waist-down areas always remain solid infill. This infill form vanishes with this group’s passing. Artists of this group have not held strict beliefs on the alignment of their images, because as many horizontal and ceiling depictions are encountered as are vertical wall alignments.
Broad Hipped Bradshaws
Broad Hipped Bradshaws are one of the smaller represented groups, but are widely distributed, and have possible links with some of the later forms well east of the ‘heartland’ area of accepted Bradshaw distribution.
Hip and thigh proportions always seem exaggerated in comparison to the chest width, and this seems to reflect continued attempts to depict steatopygous characteristics on simple plan view figures. This 470x80mm Broad Hipped Bradshaw, Fig ‘A’, is one of the earliest depictions in the Bradshaw Period to incorporate the Feet-Facing Opposite-Direction alignment, which becomes the standard in Schematised Bradshaws. The headdress alignment in this instance does not unequivocably indicate a definite plan view intention.
Definite Large-And-Small Arrangements exist, at times involving quite different headdress and alignments on the smaller associated figures. Some of these include a distinctive Moptop Headdress, as in Fig ‘B’. This basic body form and headdress appear similar and seem related to the range of ‘subservient scenes’.
Headdress are rounded-tip Dunce Cap forms, commonly with a Pompom Tip. ‘Missing’ sections on some figures indicate that at least limited bichrome features have been present, as in Fig ‘C’. Their form is simple, devoid of decoration other than occasional Small Bangles and a basic form of Elbow Band which occasionally has small ribbon-like decorations mounted from it (Fig ‘C’).
Schematised Bradshaws are one of the smaller groups within the major Tassel Bradshaw Group, displaying the Triple Tassel waist appendages, but mostly in simplified, schematic form.
Figures are normally solitary, and almost invariably face left. Arm alignments may be varied, but arms most frequently hang at about 60˚. Some figures also share the complex Dotted Line Decoration surrounding the upper body (A), a feature common to selected Tassel Bradshaws. A characteristic of Schematised Bradshaws is their fine, precise, flowing lines, particularly evident in the limbs. Legs are commonly depicted Partly Spread-Legged, further emphasising the elegance of their frequently sharply tapered extremities.
Arms are commonly slim and tapered, sometimes with pointed tips similar to the legs, or with fine oval ‘hands’. ‘Held’ objects are positioned beside the forearms (A)of some Schematised Bradshaws to suggest links with the earlier Tassel Bradshaw times. This 250x180mm example has the additional Dotted Line Decorations associated with it, a feature common to certain select Tassel Bradshaws, and possibly representing the red dot decorations of once bichrome lines. More naturalistic forms of Schematised Bradshaws at times show the use of the same calligraphic brush strokes common to the Convex Sweep Bradshaws, as can clearly be seen in the single brush stroke legs of this figure Fig ‘B’. The two groups are certainly closely related within the sequence. Of particular interest is the now almost vanished ghostly silhouette of a white, right-facing Bradshaw (C), possibly a late Tassel Bradshaw, superimposed over the right of the red figure.
Convex Sweep Bradshaws
Convex Sweep Bradshaws are a minor but artistically very interesting group which did not appear to survive for long.
The application technique shows that the limbs of these figures are created largely by single brush strokes, so are devoid of muscular detail, and are more akin to more ‘basic’ forms of Schematised Bradshaws. They display no hand or foot detail, no decorative accoutrements, and have a range of simple headdress forms mostly based on slim forms of the basic Dunce
Cap Convex Sweep Bradshaws mainly seemed regionally confined to their northern development area.As this area also appears to have been the ‘epicentre’ of some of the most radically schematic forms of the later CPF Period, it may have represented a focal point for schools of more revolutionary artists over a long period. The influence of specific forms developing out of this ‘experimentation area’ seems to have spread widely over the Kimberley Bradshaw distribution area, but forms survive now as only scattered occurrences.
Convex Sweep Bradshaws are directly linked with the Schematised Bradshaw Group and the Splayed Leg Bradshaw Sub-Group, minor groups originating from the main Tassel Bradshaw Group. Some examples incorporate schematic forms of a Triple Tassel suspended from the waistband (A), and almost invariably they all face left. Even in the miniature form of Convex Sweep Bradshaws, occasional examples of associated Dotted Line decoration are encountered (B). Figure ‘C’ is a fine 165x65mm example of the ‘classic’ left facing Convex Sweep Bradshaw form, with one of the more complex headdress variations, complete with the short, radiating lines at its base.
Dynamic Bradshaws are interesting not only for their abnormally ‘lively’ themes, but for their role in the schematic transformation from the rather static Tassel Bradshaw Group.
Scenes frequently depict very gymnastic actions, with figures tumbling, cavorting or seemingly cartwheeling, a — the inverted male (A) with long headdress and waistband constriction, and the ‘seated’ figure (B) with a basic Round Head and fatter, full-line body indicating a female, but devoid of breasts. Figures most commonly have small Round Heads, but those with headdress display an elongated Dunce Cap, either with rounded tip or a basic Pompom Tip (D). Some have a defined ‘waistline’, as if supported by some small waistband, which is never identifiable (C).
Some clutch a single Crescentic Boomerang in one or both hands, but mostly they display no held material. Arms commonly end in simple ‘stump’ extremities, but more naturalistic figures have miniature oval hands and simple Slipper Feet. Physiques range, but slightly schematised examples show buttock curves and leg muscle detail, but retain the thin, stick-like arms. Occasional plan view female figures are encountered, shown with small Breasts-To-Either-Side of the body and always with a basic undecorated Round Head (F). Depictions usually are part of small group scenes, involving figures of comparable size. An interesting aspect of more schematic forms of Dynamic Bradshaws is the distinctive ‘streamlining curve’ of the lower leg, similar to ‘speed accentuation’ features developed by some modern cartoonists, as in Figs ‘D’ and ‘E’ . Dynamic Bradshaws are Sub-Group with a limited surviving distribution which extends from the central Kimberley north around the plateau perimeter. They appear to be part of a transition via the poorly represented ‘swastika’ figures through returning naturalistic elements to the Elegant Action Figures.
Mantis Bradshaws appear to have developed in the latter Bradshaw Period, and were possibly linked in some way with Stylised Bradshaws, appearing to have progressively transformed into them.
Mantis Bradshaws occur in solitary forms, rarely in small groups of up to four, and most commonly in pairs, where Large-And-Small Arrangements are occasionally depicted. Plan and profile examples may appear on one panel, but do not seem directly associated in discrete scenes. Bichrome depictions were certainly present, as is evident by ‘missing’ sections . A sufficient number of transitionary forms have now been discovered to identify the move from basic Sash Bradshaw forms — the progressive extension of the torso and the diminishing of the diminutive legs (A and B), through the final schematic stages (C) — to the establishment of the ‘classic’ legless cigar Mantis Bradshaw shape (D). Numerous quite complex decorated forms developed, some tasteful in their simplicity, such as the decorated ‘classic’ forms in Fig ‘E’.
This 360mm profile Mantis Bradshaw has minor additional decorative appendages, multiple long Tasselled Cords mounted from the neck, and some form of front and rear mounted Pubic Apron. The example in Fig ‘F’ is interesting in that it displays an erect spearthrower with the boomerangs. This is consistent with the first convincing records of the appearance of a spearthrower in equivalent southern forms which span the transition from Schematised Bradshaws, where the spearthrower is seen also. The apex of Mantis Bradshaw development appears to have centred around the northern perimeter of the Gardiner Plateau, although ‘classic’ forms exist as far south as the centre of the plateau, but apparently not westwards.
Stylised Bradshaws seem to be associated with the late Bradshaw Period, and to be linked to Mantis Bradshaws, as they appear to have evolved from them.
Stylised Bradshaws are the first definable group of figures with dominantly Bradshaw characteristics which incorporate the Feet-Facing-Opposite-Directions feature on plan view figures (A). Until this major artistic change took place, the standard of Feet-Facing-Same-Direction alignments on plan view anthropomorphous paintings had persisted since the beginning of Kimberley art. Held objects are scarce (B), or more likely are lost as a result of fugitive colour detail, but the Multi-Barb Spear with Fig ‘F’ shows that this group was associated with weapons.
A 650x170mm panel (C) showing a Side-By-Side Pair of transitionary figures from the Schematised Bradshaw to Mantis Bradshaw era. These show the clearly defined shoulder curves which are commonly missing from plan view depictions in the ‘classic’ Mantis Bradshaw era. Some figures have certainly been at least bichrome, as shown in this 760x100mm figure (D) with ‘missing’ bichrome face section. It has also had two long Tasselled Cords suspended from its headdress tip as in Fig ‘E’.
Stylised Bradshaws show certain characteristics which become common to many of the following Clothes Peg Figures, particularly amid semi-naturalistic forms. In Fig ‘F’, the small rounded Ear Rings feature can be seen on either side of the contorted profile head, which in the art that follows becomes a common feature. Shoulders are hunched upwards from the body to create an unnatural but artistic silhouette, which initially developed on some profile Mantis Bradshaws, but later becomes common to Clothes Peg Figures. Stylised and Mantis Bradshaws represent the early stages of the ‘streamlining’ process which reached its apex within the subsequent Clothes Peg Figure Period. Artists progressively schematised elements of the male human form, appearing to strive for straightness of line and almost geometric form, while still retaining aesthetic and very finely applied images.
Slim Chest Bradshaws
Slim Chest Bradshaws are a poorly represented group of figures created with basic application, which almost invariably survive in incomplete states.
Slim Chest Bradshaws are some of the last figures incorporating a broad semi-naturalistic body form, reminiscent of the preceding Broad Hipped Bradshaw silhouette, but with the upper torso further shrunken to almost ‘anorexic’ form (A). Such absurdly slim chests further accentuate distinctly hunched shoulders. In following transitionary forms, body silhouettes diminish to the slim, schematised form common to ‘classic’ CPF. Usually depicted in small groups involving females, these figures stand in static stances, with legs partly separated and bodies in plan view. Females have short-cropped ‘hair’ on small heads (’A’ and ’B’), while males have their heads turned at right angles to display their exaggerated headdress in clear profile (’C’ and’D’).
Females have small Breasts-To-Either-Side of the body, well below armpit level, so arms hang with a slight curve outside them. Artists also continue the trend, common to that period of Kimberley art history, of positioning female arms erect and folded behind the head to facilitate unobstructed breast illustration (A). All male figures have their Arms-Hanging-By-Sides. Females are ‘empty handed’, whereas males almost invariably hold a single Crescentic Boomerang by its tip in the left hand, and grip a cluster of at least three similar weapons by their central sections in the right hand. As with most groups, weapon alignment is rigid, and with Slim Chest Bradshaws, single weapons have concave arcs facing the body and multiple weapons facing away (C).
The apex of development appears to have centred around the north-western extremities of the Gardiner Plateau. Slim Chest Bradshaws make their apparently brief appearance in Kimberley art towards the closing stages of the Bradshaw era. A subsequent range of minor groups of regional figures retain certain characteristics of this group, and represent transitionary regional forms of early CPF and Stick CPF.
Eastern Bradshaws is a collective name for forms of figures found far east of the recognised west Kimberley Bradshaw distribution area.
The most important and irrefutable identification key consistently present within Eastern Bradshaws is the Feet-Facing-Opposite-Directions alignment (A). This important foot alignment feature does not appear until the Stylised Bradshaws, bordering on the transition towards CPF. In physical form, the Eastern Bradshaws collectively seem devoid of any of the early fine muscular detail of the west, having slim arms, basic three finger hands (where present), and, commonly, a form of ‘broad hipped’ legs, proportionally thick, and Standing Close-Legged with a consistent space between their legs. Their closest alliances appear to lie within the Bland Bradshaw and Broad Hipped Bradshaw groups of the west.
All Eastern Bradshaws are very ‘basic’ in appearance, devoid of even armbands, but a couple of rare instances display crude schematic variations of the Three Point Sash mounted from a waistband (A). In contrast to this, most more detailed and reasonably intact forms clearly have Ankle Wings, which appear exclusive to Bland Bradshaws in the west (‘B’ and ‘C’). Some examples feature linework rather than solid infill on the headdress, which is another feature unique to Bland Bradshaws in the west (‘C’). Although a few examples do ‘hold’ objects (A), some incomplete examples appear to have their artefacts aligned beside the forearm, rather than held in the hand, as in Figs 199 ‘B’ and ‘C’. This can only be related in the west to Tassel Bradshaws.
The figures commonly have females associated with them, and appear to be more of an eastern form of CPF. The occasional ‘almond’ shaped headdress, as can be seen in Fig ‘D’, is the sole attribute forming any apparent link with the earlier Bradshaw Period.
Stick Bradshaws represent a simplified but distinctive figure form found scattered throughout the whole distribution area of Bradshaw art. Their primary characteristic is a basic ‘stick figure’ form.
Attenuated bodies have proportionally miniaturised limb lengths, with arms usually Hanging-By-Sides. Foot detail seems non-existent and hand detail rare, on forms devoid of waist-mounted dress or other decorative appendages. Some form of simplified headdress is commonly present on the apparently male figures, frequently in the form of arched or drooping Dunce Cap Headdress variations (A).
Stick Bradshaw Figures are commonly depicted in Large-And-Small Arrangements, which in turn may form discrete panels of group scenes, such as the 470mm females with an 840mm male in Fig ‘B’. Associated smaller figures may feature a range of circular, solid or Donut heads, sometimes with short, basic, radiating lines. No genitals are ever shown, but on rare, larger and better defined examples, the smaller associated figures are shown with breasts, as in Fig ‘B’. Females are frequently shown devoid of arms, further emphasising the gender identification ‘keys’ of the outlined breasts on an otherwise ‘lollipop-like’ stick figure — the height of efficient schematisation. Instances of breast detail suggest that the common practice of using proportionally smaller figure sizes with basic head shapes as identification keys for females in group scenes was common with Stick CPF also.
Figures seem to have been exclusively monochrome, and range in height from approximately 250mm to 450mm. Their most common alignment is ‘standing’ in static groups, where occasionally larger and more detailed male figures may be holding boomerangs, as in the Fig ‘B’ group scene.
Miniature Bradshaws do not represent a specific sub-group, but are identifiable miniaturised forms found associated with a number of the main Bradshaw groups.
Most miniatures seem to be very simplified smaller forms of the primary group, although some groups, such as the Mantis Bradshaws, do not appear to have had identifiable miniatures.Simplifying body detail to a basic ‘stick figure’ format is common. Usually a simplified form of the associated group’s headdress is added, as in Fig ‘A’, but rarely with any form of dress or decorative appendage detail. Boomerangs are often held in one or both hands, as with this figure. Rare examples may display very basic headdress elaborations, such as in Fig ‘B’, but their location in the sequence is still doubtful, and the possible shield held by some suggests a much later time.
On occasion, miniatures appear to be in direct association with large, elaborate figures, which seem to be the focus of what may be considered variations of discrete panels of Large-And-Small Arrangements. An example of apparent ‘group scenes’ of Miniature Bradshaws associated with dominant figures is shown in Fig ‘C’, covering the focal point of an extensive panel including no less than 71 miniatures. These miniatures display simple but precise applications, similar to the ‘calligraphy stroke’ form common to the Convex Sweep Bradshaws. All figures appear contemporaneous, and differential weathering certainly indicates considerable antiquity. However, it is impossible to positively determine whether these above-average miniatures were part of a single original composition, or were perhaps later additions to an existing panel of Tassel Bradshaws.
In Fig ‘D’ the association of a 280mm high miniature has been confirmed by its careful depiction beneath the left arm of a 1430x405mm male figure. Detail of the miniature is shown with its elaborate headdress and absence of female-gender indicators suggesting that it is a male figure.