West MacDonnell Ranges, by Albert Namatjira's granddaughter Gloria Pannka
Albert Namajitra was an Arrernte man, born in 1902 and raised in a Lutheran mission in Hermannsburg, west of Alice Springs. He is widely recognised as one of Australia’s greatest artists and his landscape style is strikingly different from either traditional or contemporary Aboriginal art.
Albert drew from an early age but only learnt to paint in the mid 1930s when visiting artist, Rex Batterbee, taught him to use watercolours. Albert had a natural gift which, combined with his deep connection to country, brought him sell-out exhibitions and international celebrity.
But fame for an Aboriginal man in the mid 20th Century was complicated. Aboriginal people still had limited rights, some critics dismissed Namajitra’s work as inauthentic and too western, and celebrity and being granted Australian citizenship brought many challenges to his connection with his own people.
After two months in prison for supplying alcohol to other Aboriginal people, Albert Namatjra died a broken man in 1959, aged just 57.
Namatjira’s legacy has inspired many Aboriginal artists, among them his direct descendants. At Aboriginal Contemporary, it is our privilege to represent artists from Iltja Ntjarra / Many Hands Art Centre, home of the Namatjira watercolour artists.
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