One of the most celebrated Aboriginal artists in Australia is Albert Namatjira. Born in 1902 among the Arrernte people in Central Australia near Alice Springs, Namatjira painted mostly western-style landscapes that were quite different from traditional Aboriginal art. Mount Sonder and a waterhole in the MacDonnell Ranges were both painted by Albert Namatjira. Most museums across Australia have his works on display.
Early in life he lived in the Hermannsburg Mission where he attended school and was baptized. As a Lutheran youth, he lived in a boys’ dormitory. By the age of 18 he was married. He and his wife Rubina had 8 children. Albert worked as a stockman, a blacksmith, etc. It was in Hermannsburg that he, at age 32, saw some watercolor paintings by Melbourne artist Rex Battarbee. Impressed by the way Battarbee painted his beloved Outback, Namatjira started teaching himself how to paint landscapes. Acting as Battarbee’s guide, he accompanied him on a painting trip through the Western MacDonnell Ranges. Namatjira’s non-Aboriginal yet unique style pleased Australians and he became increasingly popular. Critics were divided but most everyone agreed that he lovingly painted the home of his ancestors. His fame grew especially in the 1950s when he began winning honors and met the new Queen of England. Racism existed. In 1957 he and his wife became the first Aboriginals to get Australian citizenship. At the end of this decade, however, they were still living in poverty in a creek bed near Alice Springs. He passed away at the age of 57. The Arrernte claimed Namatjira died of a broken heart.
His art became dynastic. Namatjira’s sons and their children became painters and gained their own reputations. His sons Enos, Oscar, Keith, Maurice, and Ewald all became artists. Enos’ son Gabriel became noted as did Kevin’s daughter Elaine. Albert’s great-grandson Vincent is gaining a reputation, especially for his portraits. He even hangs in the British Museum. Below is his rendering of Albert and Vincent. Above them is Kevin’s painting of Glen Helen Gorge. Kevin is Albert’s grandson. He painted the gorge in 2013. The man in the white shirt is Albert. William Dargie painted this portrait and won the prestigious Archibald Prize in the 1950s.