42 Facts About Albert Namatjira


Albert Namatjira was an Arrernte painter from the MacDonnell Ranges in Central Australia, widely considered one of the greatest and most influential Australian artists.


Albert Namatjira was the first Aboriginal artist to receive popularity from a wide Australian audience.


Albert Namatjira showed interest in art from an early age but it was not until 1934 and under the guidance of Rex Battarbee that he began to paint seriously.


Albert Namatjira became a household name in Australia and reproductions of his works hung in many homes throughout the nation.


Albert Namatjira was awarded the Queen's Coronation Medal in 1953, and was honoured with an Australian postage stamp in 1968.


Albert Namatjira was the first recorded Northern Territory Aboriginal person to be freed from restrictions that made Aboriginal people wards of the state when he was granted British Subjecthood and Australian citizenship in 1957.


However, Albert Namatjira remained poorly treated by the government; he was sentenced to prison after leaving a bottle of rum on the back seat of his car, which was likely taken and consumed by a man who had then drunkenly beaten and killed his own wife.


Public and international outcry intervened in the liability ruling and Albert Namatjira instead served less than two months in a native reserve in Papunya.


Albert Namatjira continued to live in Papunya with his wife, until he died of heart disease in an Alice Springs hospital in 1959.


Albert Namatjira was born at Hermannsburg Mission, Ntaria, in Alice Springs in 1902, the son of Namatjira and Ljukuta.


Albert Namatjira was raised on the Hermannsburg Mission and baptised after his parents' adoption of Christianity.


Albert Namatjira was born as Elea, but once baptised, they changed his name to Albert.


Albert Namatjira worked as a blacksmith, carpenter and stockman, at the mission and at the surrounding cattle stations.


Albert Namatjira was a cousin of Aboriginal country music star Gus Williams, and is credited with bringing music into Williams' life.


Albert Namatjira was introduced to western-style painting through an exhibition by two painters from Melbourne, Rex Battarbee and John Gardner, at his mission in 1934.


Battarbee returned to the area in the winter of 1936 to paint the landscape, and Albert Namatjira, expressing an interest in learning to paint, acted as his cameleer and guide to show him local scenic areas.


Albert Namatjira's work had a high quality of illumination showing the gashes of the land and the twists in the trees.


Albert Namatjira's 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, Albert Namatjira held his first solo exhibition in Melbourne.


Albert Namatjira became the first prominent Aboriginal artist to work in a contemporary western style, and thus regarded as an example of assimilation.


Albert Namatjira's work garnered wide acclaim, both in Australia and in other countries.


Albert Namatjira was elected an honorary member of the Royal Art Society of New South Wales in 1955.


Albert Namatjira's artworks were colourful and varied depictions of the Australian landscape.


Albert Namatjira used repetition, intricate patterns and high horizons to blend the styles of the two worlds he lived in.


In 2022, Albert Namatjira's work enjoyed a surge in popularity that exceeded the general increased interest in Australian art at this time.


Arrernte are expected to share everything they own, and as Albert Namatjira's income grew, so did his extended family.


Albert Namatjira then tried to build a house in Alice Springs, but was cheated in his land dealings.


Albert Namatjira's plight became a media cause celebre, resulting in a wave of public outrage.


Albert Namatjira was encouraged to apply for and became an Australian citizen at 55 years of age.


Albert Namatjira appealed against the conviction to the Supreme Court of the Northern Territory.


Albert Namatjira was released after only serving two months due to medical and humanitarian reasons.


Despondent after his incarceration, Albert Namatjira continued to live with Rubina in a cottage at Papunya, where he suffered a heart attack.


Albert Namatjira died soon after of heart disease complicated by pneumonia on 8 August 1959 in Alice Springs.


At the time of his death Albert Namatjira had painted a total of around 2,000 paintings.


Albert Namatjira is hailed today as one of the greatest Australian artists and a pioneer for Aboriginal rights.


Albert Namatjira's work is on public display in some of Australia's major art galleries.


Two years before his death, part of Albert Namatjira's copyright was sold to a company in exchange for royalties.


Albert Namatjira was honoured on postage stamps issued by Australia Post in 1968, again in 1993 with examples of his work, and in the Albert Namatjira Centenary stamp series in 2002.


In January 2013, two gum trees that featured prominently in Albert Namatjira's watercolours were destroyed in an arson attack, while they were in the process of being heritage-listed, in an "appalling and a tragic act of cultural vandalism".


The Albert Namatjira Project was a community cultural development project launched in 2009 that included an award-winning theatre production by Big hART focusing on Albert Namatjira's life and work.


Vincent Namatjira, Albert Namatjira's great-grandson, is a well-known artist in his own right, winning the Ramsay Art Prize in 2019.


Vincent's 2021 book about his great-grandfather, featuring artworks from Albert Namatjira's Story, was shortlisted for a 2022 Australian Book Industry Award in the "Small Publishers' Children's Book of the Year" category.