Albert Namatjira was an Aboriginal artist well known for his watercolours of Australia's outback. He was the first Aborigine to be given Australian citizenship.
The Archibald Prize-winning portrait of Albert Namatjira.
by Sir William Dargie (1956).
Albert Namatjira's Early Life.
Albert Namatjira was born into the Arunta (also called Aranda) tribe near Hermannsburg Lutheran Mission (near Alice Springs) on 28 July 1902. Before he was christened, his name was Elea. The name Namatjira, in Aboriginal language, means "flying ant". Not much is known about Namatjira's early life except that the staff at the mission noted his skills as a blacksmith and a carpenter. He worked as a stockman, camel-driver and station-hand. He later made Aboriginal weapons and plaques that were sold as souvenirs. .
The Hermannsburg Lutheran Mission in 1923.
When Namatjira was a young man he and Ilkalita (daughter of a leader of a forbidden tribe) had eloped. Later he was forgiven for marring Ilkalita. He took her back to his tribe were she was baptised as a Christian, and given the name of Rubina. They had nine children, two of who died. .
How He Became An Artist.
Albert Namatjira became an artist after the meeting with Rex Battarbee, a well-known Melbourne artist who specialized in watercolours and was the first European to paint the beauty of the central Australian Desert. Battarbee and European artist John A. Gardner held an exhibition of their paintings of the Macdonnell Ranges at the Hermannsburg Mission Station in 1934. During the two days it was open, hundreds of Aborigines visited the exhibition. Battarbee returned in 1936, were he took Namatjira into the bush for eight weeks. Battarbee taught Namatjira watercolour techniques, and this was the only lesson he received. .
Namatjira watching Battarbee paint.
Namatjira learned very quickly and two years after his first lesson, he exhibited in Melbourne in 1938, and he sold all of his 41 paintings.