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2014/93/2 Scarf, silk batik, Aboriginal-inspired design by Byram Mansell, Sydney, New South Wales, Australia, c. 1950. Click to enlarge.

Scarf designed by Byram Mansell

  • c 1950
Aboriginal-inspired souvenirs like this Surfers Paradise scarf were popular in Australia during the 1950s, and indeed Aboriginal souvenirs remain popular with overseas tourists today. Neil was one of the most prolific producers of non-Aboriginal 'Aboriginal' souvenir scarves during that mid-twentieth century.

Today the finest and only appropriate Aboriginal souvenirs are produced and sold by Australian Aboriginal craftspeople and Aboriginal organisations themselves. However, in the 1950s there were very few Aboriginal souvenir industries or retailers. Most Aboriginal-inspired souvenirs at that time were created by non-Aboriginal artists producing works for a lucrative tourist market.

This Aboriginal-inspired souvenir silk batik scarf design by Byram Mansell is more artistic than the majority of mass produced tourist scarves. Mansell was one of the most prolific producers of 'Aboriginal-inspired' art and designs during that time, even receiving commissions for work based on this theme. The scarf is signed 'Mansell'.

Today it is considered unacceptable and inappropriate for non-Indigenous artists to copy or reproduce Aboriginal artworks, signs, symbols and designs.

Anne-Marie Van de Ven, Curator 2008

Further reading:
Claire Baddeley, 'Motif and Meaning: aboriginal influences in Australian Art 1930-1970' exhibition catalogue, Ballarat Fine Art Gallery,1999
Vivien Johnson, 'Copyrites, Aboriginal Art in the Age of Reproductive Technologies' toruing exhibition catalogue, National Indigenous arts Advocacy Association and Macquarie University, 1996
Rosie Nice, The Australian Scarf exhibition booklet, Historic Houses Trust of New South Wales, 1993


Object No.


Object Statement

Scarf, silk batik, Aboriginal-inspired design by Byram Mansell, Sydney, New South Wales, Australia, c. 1950

Physical Description

Scarf, silk batik, Aboriginal-inspired design featuring boomerangs and other implements, cross hatching, Mimi figures and other 'Aboriginal' motifs.


Signed 'Mansell' lower right.



905 mm



  • c 1950


Designed and made by Byram Mansell.

William Arthur Byram Mansell (1893-1977), artist and designer, was born on 9 September 1893 at Double Bay, Sydney, son of Benjamin William Mansell, a company secretary from England, and his first wife Ada Mary, née Byram (d.1893), who was born in New South Wales.
Inspired by materials from Sir Baldwin Spencer's expeditions, and Charles Mountford's photographs from the Australian-American Scientific Expedition to Arnhem Land, Mansell took up Aboriginal mythology as a theme in his art, and followed the advice of Sydney Ure Smith to create his own style by adapting rather than by copying Aboriginal techniques.
Ref: Arianne Rouke, Australian Dictionary of Biography

William Arthur 'Byram' Mansell (b. Double Bay, 9/9/1893 - d. Killara 6/8/1977)
Graphic artist/designer (textiles, theatre, ceramics, murals), painter and teacher.
His work ranged from white earthenware domestic ceramics, through fabric and interior designs to paintings.
Father - Benjamin William Mansell, company secretary from England.
Mother - Ada Mary (née Byram) died soon after the birth of her son, Byram Mansell, in 1893.
Children: Son of his first marriage; daughter of his second marriage; and two sons of his third marriage (Peter and John Mansell).
1906-1910: Byram Mansell attends Scots College and Sydney Grammar School
1911: Studies engineering, Sydney Technical College.
1913: Marries Beatrice Margaret Forman Cameron (divorced 1919) - they have one son.
1914 -1920: Works in his father's engineering plant at Gore Bay, Sydney. Studies at night at Julian Ashton's Art School, Sydney. Creates illustrated comic strips.
1919: Marries Winifred Jane Capps (later divorced) - they have one daughter.
1921: Attends Honolulu Academy of Art, Hawaii then opens art studio. Paints flower paintings mounted on black lacquered Japanese screens.
1922-1924: Studies at the Académie Julian, Paris
1924-1926: Operates studio in Hollywood Boulevard, Los Angeles. Art director for Cecil B. De Mille. Designs costumes for several film studios and masks for Lon Chaney. Executes over forty commissions for cafés, theatres and cabarets in New York, Chicago and Los Angeles. Commissioned to decorate coaches for the Atchison, Topeka & Santa Fe Railway Co. Interiors show influence of Spanish Mission and Art Nouveau styles, especially the style of L. C.Tiffany. Briefly studies art, design, textiles and technology in Mexico.
c1926: Returns to Australia. Opens a textile studio in Elizabeth Street, Sydney. Teaches batik-making.
1928: Marries Allison Grace Cameron - they have 2 sons.
Mid-1930s: Mansell's landscape painting reflects the influence of Elioth Gruner's Palm Beach paintings) and Hans Heysen's Macdonald Ranges' views.
1938: Designs floats for Australia's sesqui-centenary celebrations.
1939-1947: Moves to Bowral, NSW and establishes an art studio.
c1948: Mansell takes up Aboriginal mythology as a theme in his art. Following the advice of Sydney Ure Smith, he creates a style which adapts Aboriginal styles and techniques. He uses parrot feathers as a brush, natural pigments ground to a fine powder, and cactus juice as binding agents. He responds to both the narrative and the design aspects of Aboriginal art and culture. Studies material collected during the expeditions of Sir Baldwin Spencer and Charles Mountford's late 1940s photographs from the Australian-American Scientific Expedition to Arnhem Land. Produces Aboriginal-inspired paintings and watercolours, prints, textiles, scarves, greeting cards, ceramic murals and furniture.
From 1949: Holds series of one-man exhibitions in Sydney.
1949: Exhibits with Contemporary Art Society.
1951: Exhibits Anthony Hordern's Fine Art Gallery, Sydney.
1952: Designed the sets (and possibly also the costumes) for The Kulaman featuring music by Alfred Hill and words by W.E. Harvey & A.P. Elkin.
1953: Exhibits paintings and batik, David Jones Art Gallery.
Exhibits silk scarves in Commonwealth Bank, Australia House and Qantas Empire Airways Ltd, London.
1954: Becomes foundation member of the National Gallery Society of NSW
1956: Presents large pottery dish with Aboriginal motifs to Dame Mary Gilmore on her 91st birthday (now in collection of National Library of Australia - see Joan Kerr, Remarkable Occurrences, NLA, 2001). Artworks reproduced by the Commonwealth Bank of Australia to coincide with the 1956 Melbourne Olympic Games.
1958: Elected a fellow of the Royal Society of British Artists, London. Elected fellow Royal Art Society of New South Wales.
1950s-1970s: Drawing on Aboriginal motifs, he executed numerous murals (some in ceramic tiles) for business firms and local councils including the Rural Bank mural at the Royal Easter Show, Sydney 1966. Designed panels for the New South Wales Government Railways (1950s), the Empress of Australia ferry (launched 1965) and the tanker boat, Amanda Miller (launched 1971).
Grew cacti in the garden of his Killara home and decorated his studio with Japanese armour.

Biography prepared by: Anne-Marie Van de Ven, Curator, June 2008

Roman Black, Old and New Australian Aboriginal Art, Sydney, 1964.
Byram Mansell, retrospective exhibition catalogue, Woolloomooloo Gallery, Sydney, 1985.
People, 31 Jan 1951, p.21
Woman's Day, 5 Jan 1953, p.30
Art and Australia, 24, no 1, 1986, p.86
Sydney Morning Herald 30 July 1924; 18 Oct 1927; 24 Jan 1950; 10 May 1952; 23 Apr 1955; 21 Sept 1964; 15 Aug 1971.
Sunday Telegraph, 10 Sept 1950.
Christian Science Monitor, Boston, United States of America, 20 Aug 1954.
Arianne Rourke, 'Mansell, William Arthur Byram (1893 - 1977)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 15, Melbourne University Press, 2000, p. 299.
William Arthur Byram Mansell, Dictionary of Australian Artists Online, (accessed 24/6/08)



Owned by gallery owner Thelma Clune (1990-1992) - Clune Galleries, Darlinghurst, Sydney who gave it to Rosie Nice.

Exhibited in 'The Australian scarf' exhibition curated by Rosie Nice for the Greenway Gallery, Hyde Park Barracks, Historic Houses Trust of NSW (now Sydney Living Museums), 1993.


Credit Line

Gift of Rosie Nice and Estate of Thelma Clune, 2008

Acquisition Date

5 September 2014

Cite this Object


Scarf designed by Byram Mansell 2020, Museum of Applied Arts & Sciences, accessed 25 November 2020, <>


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