Albert Namatjira

Albert Namatjira

1902 - 1959

Albert Namatjira was the first Australian Aborigine to be recognized both nationally and internationally as an artist. He is now one of Australia's best-known artists. His landscape paintings capture the essence of the Australian outback.

Namatjira's paintings express his relationship with the Arrernte country, particularly the Western Arrernte lands, for which he was a traditional custodian. Through his intense scrutiny of specific places and his sensitive response to their individual qualities, Namatjira enables us to see the Centre as a multi-faceted region of Australia. A region of extremes, central Australia is far from a 'dead heart'.

Albert Namatjira was born in 1902 spending time in his early formative years at the Hermannsburg Lutheran Mission. He was initiated as a young man into the sacred tribal ways and was taught the tribal customs and ancient laws of the Western Aranda. Namatjira greatly respected his tribal laws and seldom traveled far from his ancestral home. The majority of his watercolour works were landscapes of areas that he had known throughout his life, for they fell within the tribal land of the Western Aranda.

Namatjira's works captured the vibrant colours of the Western MacDonnell Ranges in the north and the Krichauff Ranges to the south. They also captured the crater-like mountain mass of the circular Gosse's Range to the west, the tributaries of Ellery Creek and Hugh River to the east, and in many works the broad bed of the Finke River that ran through the heart of his tribal land. He also painted the mauve hues of Mount Sonder, the white ghost gums against Glen Helen's red escarpments and the blue waterholes of the Ormiston.

Nearly all of his works were painted 'plein air' (on site) rather than from memory and they were mostly painted in the winter or dry season. Most of his works were landscapes, some in which he included the native wildlife, and occasionally he painted a portrait of one of the Central Australian tribesmen.

His art brought him fame and a degree of wealth, but little freedom. Throughout his life he never neglected his tribal responsibilities and he never neglected his family or his people, sharing the little that he made from the sales of his art, with his family and friends.

Albert Namatjira died in 1959.

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