Alternative Name(s): Teatowel

Tea towel printed in dark blue on off-white background with pattern of stylized human forms with tall headdresses, variously carrying spears, shields and boomerangs, surrounded by animals - kangaroo, fish, emu and turtles. The pattern is the same as that used for HT 12417. The image references traditional Indigenous artwork. The headdress resembles that of a Indigenous ceremonial headdress of Mornington Island, Queensland, made from bark, human hair and feathers.

Made by John Rodriquez for commercial sale. He would typically issue a design in three or four colour combinations, and see what sold best.

John Rodriquez studied art and design at RMIT in the late 1940s and became well known for his screen-printed textile designs in the early 1950s. From 1950 to 1980 he was one of a handful of Australian textile designers who developed a new contemporary style with innovative use of colour. His designs in the early 1950s were mostly of Aboriginal or geometric style. Later he turned to more abstract designs in the Scandinavian style. Later still he made bold use of colour. Rodriquez introduced unique Australian styles which have been imitated often since. He always stressed the importance of innovation. Many homes in Australia and overseas still have his art works in the linen cupboard.

John Rodriquez retired in 1988, handing the Rodriquez company to his son Rimian, who has computerised the screen printing and mostly employs other designers for the products, but still uses a few of his father's most popular designs. Rodriquez passed away in 2000.

Physical Description

Tea towel printed in dark blue on off-white background. Printing pattern has three principal rows, repeated, featuring stylized human forms with tall headdresses topped with star shapes, variously carrying spears, shields and boomerangs. They are surrounded by a range of animals - kangaroo, fish, emu and turtles - as well as stars, dots and geometric shapes. A row of these shapes is used between each row of human forms, and at the top and bottom of the printed area. Machine-hemmed top and bottom.


See Narrative 'John Rodriquez Textile Collection'.

The significance of this object lies, in part, in its use of Aboriginal imagery. The use of Australian motifs, including Aboriginal imagery, flora and fauna, became fashionable during the 1940s and 1950s. These motifs expressed a growing sense of Australian identity while the nation was experiencing the social upheavals of war and mass migration. Many immigrant artists also began to adopt these motifs as they settled into their new country. Aboriginal imagery expressed complex attitudes to Australia's first inhabitants: as culturally interesting, representing connection to place and landscape, yet signifying a distant, pre-civilised time, in contrast to modern Australia. The fact that much of the Aboriginal imagery was appropriated without permission or compensation was far from the thoughts of most commercial artists of the time.

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