Seeing the centre
The art of Albert Namatjira 1902–1959

Introduction | Discoveries | Light | Transformations | Animate | Sights | Intimate | Saplings | Looking | Bibliography | Gallery of works

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.

In many of Namatjira's paintings, trees are subjects in their own right. In some, they are portraits of living entities and the history of their survival is evident in the way they are depicted. Our tendency to see a connection between the human condition and nature is facilitated by the cropped view of the tree. Trunks become torsos, branches become arms; while bark functions like skin- folds and wrinkles are created by the pressures of the tree's growth, which is not only upwards but also outwards.

Albert Namatjira Ghost gum, Glen Helen c 1945-49 Private collection Melbourne

Banner: Albert Namatjira Mount Sonder, MacDonnell Ranges c 1957-59 (detail), National Gallery of Australia, Canberra