Western Aranda artist Albert Namatjira (1902-1959) is a key figure in Australian history. He is one of the Australia’s most renowned artists, best known for his watercolour landscapes that depict his connection to Country painted in a traditional European style.
He was born Elea and named Albert by a Lutheran pastor when he was baptised at the Hermannsburg Mission. Before meeting Rex Battarbee where Namatjira developed the European painting style he is most well-known for, he was already an artist. As a traditional custodian of Western Aranda culture, Namatjira painted his father’s Country in the MacDonnell Ranges, Northern Territory and his mother’s Country in the Palm Valley region in Central Australia.
In 1939 the Art Gallery of South Australia was the first Australian state gallery to acquire a work of art by an Aboriginal artist after the acquisition of Albert Namatjira’s, Illum-Baura (Haasts Bluff), Central Australia, 1939.
The Namatjira legacy continues with many of his decedents working in Central Australia.
- After researching more about the life of Albert Namatjira, discuss what role art can play in changing public perceptions.
- Compare the work of Albert Namatjira to the work of other Hermannsburg artists. How has he continued to inspire artists at Hermannsburg today?
- In Albert Namatjira’s River Red gum – Salam 1950s, the Arabic word Salam can be seen inscribed on the tree trunk. Investigate Namatjira’s connection to the Afghan and Pakistani cameleers who worked in outback Australia. What do you think Namatjira is communicating about this relationship?
- Create a children’s book that illustrates key moments in Albert Namatjira’s life.
- Look closely at Albert Namatjira’s watercolour painting Waterhole, MacDonnell Ranges. What can you see? Imagine you could travel through this landscape, where would you start and what direction would you go? Write a creative story based on your journey through the painting and capture all of the things you encountered.
- In Waterhole, MacDonnell Ranges, Albert Namatjira has used receding colours. These are cool colours, such as blues, that become lighter as they recede into the distance. Look closely at how Namatjira has used receding colours.
- Advancing colours, are warm colours such as yellow, orange and reds, that make colours appear closer. Look at where Albert Namatjira has placed warm violet and terracotta colours in Waterhole, MacDonnell Ranges. Experiment with receding and advancing colours. Create a work of art with these effects, contrasting warm and cool colours.
- Albert Namatjira paid close attention to the gum tree in this painting, capturing great detail, as if he was painting a portrait of that individual tree. Find a tree and create your own ‘portrait’. Consider different ways to represent the tree, such as capturing different angles, textures of the bark of the bark and leaves in the one composition.
- In River Red gum – Salam, Albert Namatjira has paid homage to the Afghan and Pakistani cameleers he worked with. Create a work of art that pays homage to someone you admire, without including a physical portrait. The work may include objects or refer to your memory of them.
- As Albert Namatjira painted in a predominately European style it was long overlooked that he was expressing his connection to Country. Create a work of art which expresses your connection to a place important to you.