Painting of Girl in Traditional Barta Dress that belonged to Arthur Calwell #2010-0269
Timber painting in timber frame; image is of a woman in Latvian National Dress.
This painting is part of a collection of objects that belonged to Arthur Calwell, Australia’s first Minister for Immigration (1945-49) that were donated to the museum by his daughter, Dr Mary Elizabeth Calwell.
This painting attests to the high regard held for Calwell by the refugees to Australia, is a rare item of material culture stemming from the early years of immigration to Australia from the Baltic states after World War II. The costume is from the Barta district in south-western Latvia. At the time Latvia was occupied by the USSR. Latvian refugees were foundational to today’s Latvian Australian community. The reclaimed timber support of the painting attests to the poverty of that immigrant community and the ingenuity of migrants in producing small items of memorabilia from usually recycled materials.