ALBERT NAMATJIRA: The Indigenous Artist

Albert Namatjira's Fink River Mission and Mount Hermannsburg, 1951 – photo by The Advertiser

Albert Namatjira was born on 28 July 1902 with Elea Namatjira as his original name. He was an Aboriginal artist who hailed from the MacDonnell Ranges, Central Australia. Albert was the most celebrated Indigenous Australian of his time because he was a founder and brain behind the modern Aboriginal Australian art.

Albert Namatjira, photographed by Alan Lambert during his trip around Australia in 1954. – photo by HuffPost Australia

Right from an early age, Namatjira was interested in art, but this dream was not actualized until 1934 when he was 32 years old. It was at this age he started serious painting.

As a painter, Albert Namatjira was prominent for his representation of the Australian bush. He grew up in a mission very far away from his family. This was where this man was raised according to western culture. During that time, he normally sneaked out from the precincts of the mission to survey the Australian bush.

He resided on the mountains and in the greenery of the bush for several months. With this nurtured artistic aesthetics in him, he drew the panoramic beauty of the bush in his free time. He was familiar with the western technique of painting as soon as he attended a show of specialised painters that took place at the mission.

Afterwards, one of the painters present at the exhibition wanted to paint a bush. Albert went together with him and directed him through the bush. As he was put through the use of watercolours by the painter he escorted through the bush, the journey really proved beneficial for Albert.

Albert Namatjira, Hermannsburg Mission with Mount Hermannsburg, 1937, Watercolour on paper – photo by ABC

Albert quickly became a brilliant painter and covered the canvas with resplendent landscapes, due to the likeness he had for painting and the proximity he shared with the bush. It was on this note that Albert generated paintings with infinitesimal details. In addition, he carved the tweaks of trees with perfection.

On the other hand, this artist called Albert Namatjira set a distinction between the background showing gigantic mountains which stood in disparity to the attractive flowers, trees, and grasslands. The paintings of this man were very much cherished by detractors and viewers.

Albert Namatjira Height of Success

The height of success of Albert Namatjira started when he began painting in a matchless style. His landscapes were always second to none because they are more often than not highlighted the rocky geological characteristics of the land in the background, and the unique Australian flora in the forefront with very old, majestic and stately white gum trees surrounded by twisted scrub. Albert’s work had a soaring quality of illumination demonstrating the twists in the trees and gashes of the land.

Albert Namatjira meets the Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh in 1954 – photo by The Times

His colours were like that of the ochres used to depict the same landscape by his ancestors, but the style of Albert was valued by the Europeans as it was in accordance with the aesthetics of western art.

The first exhibition involving Albert took place in Melbourne in 1938. For ten years, Namatjira kept painting, and his works kept selling fast and his fame continued to increase. As a result of his popularity, the Queen of England became one of his enthusiasts. In 1953, Albert was honoured with the Coronation Medal of the Queen, while he met her personally in 1954 in Canberra.

Not just did Albert’s art happen to be generally acknowledged, a painting of him by Dargie William emerged winner of the Archibald Prize in 1956. As a result, Namatjira’s became well-liked, seriously celebrated and well-to-do.

The Artworks of Namatjira

Albert Namatjira, Ghost Gum and Waterhole – photo by AASD

This man boasted vibrant artworks and wide-ranging representations of the Australian landscape. The Central Australian Landscape of 1936 by Albert showed a land of rolling green hills. The Ajantzi Waterhole of 1937 that showed a close view of a small waterhole with reflection in the water is another early work done by Albert.

Albert Namatjira’s love of trees was often described in order for his paintings of trees to be more portraits than landscapes. In addition, his skills at colouring trees can also be seen in some of his portrait works.


Albert Namatjira made a total of about two thousand paintings in his lifetime. However, his exceptional way of painting was condemned by a number of critics, immediately after he died. They claimed that the paintings were products of his adaptation into western culture, instead of his connection to his own subject matter or natural style. This claim has been mostly discarded and Albert Namatjira is celebrated and adjudged one of the greatest artists in Australia and a leader and forerunner for the Aboriginal rights.

Albert Namatjira’s painting of Mount Hermannsburg – photo by ABC

Some of the works of this legend are now on display in a number of major galleries in Australia with a number of significant exceptions. Some biographical films about Albert have been produced, such as the ‘Namatjira the Painter of 1947’. Also, the New South Wales Gallery now showcases some of the works of Namatjira, despite the initial rejection.

The Death of Albert Namatjira

Albert Namatjira, the artist died on 8 August 1959 in Alice Springs, soon after he suffered from heart disease complicated by pneumonia.