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Transcript of Albert Namatjira
Although doing a small amount of rough but non-traditional artwork in his youth, Namatjira was introduced to western style painting through an exhibition by two painters from Melbourne at his mission in 1934. One of these painters, Rex Battarbee, returned to the area in the winter of 1936 to paint the landscape and Namatjira acted as a guide to show him local scenic areas. In return Namatjira was shown how to paint with watercolours, a skill at which he quickly shined. Biographical Information Ghost Gums at Glen Helen, near Alice Springs, Albert Namajira( 1945-49). Namatjira's skills at colouring trees can be clearly seen in this portrait. 'MacDonnell Range Bluff' watercolour, Albert Namatjira Namatjira was fully aware of his own talent, as was shown when he was describing another landscape painter to William Dargie.
"He does not know how to make the side of a tree which is in the light look the same colour as the side of the tree in shadow...I know how to do better."
Namatjira's skills kept increasing with experience as is shown in the highly photographic quality of Mt Hermannsburg (1957), painted only two years before he died.
"I AM ALBERT NAMATJIRA AND I PAINT THE GHOSTLY GUMS" used in the Song I Am Australian.
“The street names will be an acknowledgement of the tremendous contribution the indigenous community makes to all aspects of society, including the arts in which Ella Rose Savage and Albert Namatjira have made outstanding contributions” Gladstone Observer - 2012-08-22 03:33:00
“The late Albert Namatjira, in particular, is a household name with his desert landscape works earning him international acclaim.” Gladstone Observer - 2012-08-22 03:33:00 Quotes http://flair.wittysparks.com/quotes/Albert+Namatjira
http://www.anbg.gov.au/biography/namatjira-albert.html Bibliography Namatjira started painting in a distinctly unique style. His landscapes normally highlighted both the rugged geological features of the land in the background, and the distinctive Australian flora in the foreground with very old, stately and majestic white gum trees surrounded by twisted scrub. His work had a high quality of illumination showing the gashes of the land and the twists in the trees. His colours were similar to the ochres that his ancestors had used to depict the same landscape, but his style was appreciated by Europeans because it met the aesthetics of western art.
In 1938 his first exhibition was held in Melbourne. Subsequent exhibitions in Sydney and Adelaide also sold out. For ten years Namatjira continued to paint, his works continuing to sell quickly and his popularity continuing to rise. Queen Elizabeth II became one of his more notable fans and he was awarded the Queen's Coronation Medal in 1953 and met her in Canberra in 1954. Not only did his own art become widely recognized, but a painting of him by William Dargie won the Archibald Prize in 1956. He became popular, critically acclaimed and wealthy. He, however, was always glad to return to the outback. Namatjira's artworks were colourful and varied depictions of the Australian landscape. One of his first landscapes from 1936, Central Australian Landscape, shows a land of rolling green hills. Another early work, Ajantzi Waterhole (1937), shows a close up view of a small waterhole, with Namatjira capturing the reflection in the water. The landscape becomes one of contrasting colours, a device that is often used by Western painters, with red hills and green trees in Red Bluff (1938). Central Australian Gorge (1940) shows detailed rendering of rocks and reflections in the water. In Flowering Shrubs Namatjira contrasts the blossoming flowers in the foreground with the more barren desert and cliffs in the background. Namatjira's love of trees was often described so that his paintings of trees were more portraits than landscapes, which is shown in the portrait of the often depicted ghost gum in Ghost Gum Glen Helen (c.1945-49). Namatjira's skills at colouring trees can be clearly seen in this portrait. Due to his wealth, Namatjira soon found himself the subject of humbugging, a ritualised form of begging. Arrernte are expected to share everything they own, and as Namatjira's income grew, so did his extended family. At one time he was singlehandedly providing for over 600 people. To ease the burden on his strained resources, Namatjira sought to lease a cattle station to benefit his extended family. Originally granted, the lease was subsequently rejected because the land was part of a returned servicemen's ballot, and also because he had no ancestral claim on the property. He then tried to build a house in Alice Springs, but was cheated in his land dealings. The land he was sold was on a flood plain and was unsuitable for building. The Minister for Territories, Paul Hasluck, offered him free land in a reserve on the outskirts of Alice Springs, but this was rejected, and Namatjira and his family took up residence in a squalid shanty at Morris Soak—a dry creek bed some distance from Alice Springs. Despite the fact that he was held as one of Australia's greatest artists, Namatjira was living in poverty. His plight became a media cause célèbre, resulting in a wave of public outrage.
In 1957 the government exempted Namatjira and his wife from the restrictive legislation that applied to Aborigines in the Northern Territory. This entitled them to vote, own land, build a house and buy alcohol. Although Albert and Rubina were legally allowed to drink alcohol, his Aboriginal family and friends were not. The nomadic Arrernte culture expected him to share everything he owned, even after they ceased being nomads. It was this contradiction that was to bring Namatjira into conflict with the law.
When an Aboriginal woman, Fay Iowa, was killed at Morris Soak, Namatjira was held responsible by Jim Lemaire, the Stipendiary Magistrate, for bringing alcohol into the camp. He was reprimanded at the coronial inquest. It was then against the law to supply alcohol to an Aboriginal person. Namatjira was charged with leaving a bottle of rum in a place, i.e. on a car seat, where a clan brother and fellow Hermannsburg artist Henoch Raberaba, could get access to it. He was sentenced to six months in prison for supplying an Aboriginal with liquor. After a public uproar, Hasluck intervened and the sentence was served at Papunya Native Reserve. He was released after only serving two months due to medical and humanitarian reasons Despondent after his incarceration, Namatjira continued to live with Rubina in a cottage at Papunya, where he suffered a heart attack. There is evidence that Albert believed that he had the bone pointed at him by a member of Fay Iowa's family. The idea of being "sung" to death was also held by Frank Clune, a popular travel writer, aboriginal activist, and organiser of Albert's whirlwind 1956 trip.
After being transferred to Alice Springs hospital, Namatjira astonished his mentor Rex Battarbee by presenting him with three landscapes, with a promise of more to come; a promise unrealised. He died soon after of heart disease complicated by pneumonia on 8 August 1959 in Alice Springs. 'West MacDonnells' watercolor, Albert Namatjira The National Gallery of Australia summarises the subtlety of Namatjira's work thus:
"Water is a powerful presence; it is the central dynamic for change. Its absence or presence is the source of much of the diversity of visual forms and motifs that engaged Namatjira throughout his painting career. The 'red heart' is a misnomer for a land in which light and distance are key factors that shape perception, fragment forms and transform colour. Namatjira developed a rich repertoire of compositional devices to express his experience of being in this world. In so doing, he expands our vision. He opens our eyes and our senses to new ways of seeing the Centre." Quote