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Seeing the Centre: the art of Albert Namatjira
Gallery

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Detail: Albert Namatjira Wildlife near the Gosse Range 1939 watercolour over pencil on paper Museum and Art Gallery of the Northern Territory Battarbee Collection


Albert Namatjira Wildlife near the Gosse Range 1939 watercolour over pencil on paper Museum and Art Gallery of the Northern Territory Battarbee Collection

Discoveries: depicting his world

Albert Namatjira's reputation rests on his landscapes. His paintings of other subjects are not so well known. Recent discoveries reveal that, particularly during the early years of his career, he produced portraits, scenes of daily life, animals and buildings, all of which are either integrated into, or juxtaposed against, the land.

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Detail: Albert Namatjira Mt Hermannsburg Finke River c.1946-51 watercolour over pencil on paper National Gallery of Australia


Albert Namatjira Mt Hermannsburg Finke River c.1946-51 watercolour over pencil on paper National Gallery of Australia

Light on Ljalkaindirma (Mount Hermannsburg):
the shifting shadow

Ljalkaindirma (Mount Hermannsburg) presents a complex juxtaposition of coloured shadows. Namatjira's early paintings of the mountain rely on alternate placement of light and dark areas within broad, relatively flat shapes, to establish the effect of the sun in defining its unique topography and enclosing folds.

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Detail: Albert Namatjira Kwariitnama (Organ Pipes) c.1945-53 watercolour over pencil on paper Ngurratjuta/Pmara Ntjarra Aboriginal Corporation


Albert Namatjira Kwariitnama (Organ Pipes) c.1945-53 watercolour over pencil on paper Ngurratjuta/Pmara Ntjarra Aboriginal Corporation

Transformations: light begets colour

The capacity of light to flatten, fragment, illuminate or hide the forms that comprise the land, as perceived by the eye at unique moments in time, were not the only qualities that inspired Albert Namatjira. Solid matter that we know to be red, brown or green is seen by the eye as mauve, purple or blue when viewed from a distance.

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Detail: Albert Namatjira Standley Chasm c.1942-49 watercolour and gouache over pencil on paper Collection of Dr Beverley Castleman Melbourne

Albert Namatjira Standley Chasm c.1942-49 watercolour and gouache over pencil on paper Collection of Dr Beverley Castleman Melbourne

The animate void: gaps and gorges

The perpendicular walls of the narrow Standley Chasm Angkale are a popular subject for many visiting artists. It was a familiar part of Albert Namatjira's country and he painted it many times.

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Detail: Albert Namatjira Haasts Bluff c.1956 watercolour over pencil on paper National Gallery of Australia

Albert Namatjira Haasts Bluff c.1956 watercolour over pencil on paper National Gallery of Australia

Sights and sites: distant peaks and monoliths

Discrete peaks rising from a flat plain hold a particular appeal for the tourist: they function as goal posts for the journey, elements to be explored and experienced. For the traditional owners, however, they hold spiritual meaning. As with many locations in central Australia, peaks like Mount Sonder are therefore well documented as both 'sights' and 'sites'.

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Detail: Albert Namatjira Palm Valley c.1945-49 watercolour over pencil on paper Private Collection Adelaide


Albert Namatjira Palm Valley c.1945-49 watercolour over pencil on paper Private Collection Adelaide

Intimate communities:
palm trees [arrangkeye] and other rare plants

A favourite tourist spot since the 1930s, Alyape (Palm Valley) has inspired many artists. For Albert Namatjira it had a special attraction.

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Detail: Albert Namatjira Ghost gum, Glen Helen c.1945-49 watercolour over pencil on paper Private collection Melbourne

Albert Namatjira Ghost gum, Glen Helen c.1945-49 watercolour over pencil on paper Private collection Melbourne
 

Saplings and survivors: portraits of trees

Trees play a pivotal role in leading our eye into the painted image of a landscape and in creating the illusion of space. In Albert Namatjira's art, their position in the foreground and at the perimeter of horizontal formats adds depth in different ways.

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Detail: Albert Namatjira Mount Sonder, MacDonnell Ranges c.1957-59 watercolour and pencil on paper National Gallery of Australia

Albert Namatjira Mount Sonder, MacDonnell Ranges c.1957-59 watercolour and pencil on paper National Gallery of Australia

Looking at land: the panoramic frame

When Albert Namatjira visited Sydney in 1956 as the guest of the writer Frank Clune, whose travel books helped popularise central Australia in the 1950s, he spent five consecutive mornings in the studio of well-known portrait painter, William Dargie.

 

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