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The National Portrait Gallery acknowledges the Traditional Custodians of Country throughout Australia and recognises the continuing connection to lands, waters and communities. We pay our respect to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultures and to Elders both past and present.

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander viewers are warned that this website contains images of deceased persons.

The Gallery’s Acknowledgement of Country, and information on culturally sensitive and restricted content and the use of historic language in the collection can be found here.

Albert and his wife Rubina, Macdonnell Ranges

1946
Axel Poignant

gelatin silver photograph, selenium toned on paper (40.6 cm x 56.0 cm)

Arrernte artist Albert Namatjira (1902–1959) became interested in painting at the Hermannsburg Mission in the 1930s. After learning watercolour technique, he was persuaded to exhibit his work in Melbourne in 1938. The exhibition sold out in two days. Demand for his paintings increased during the 1940s and he was the subject of a biography and a film, Namatjira the Painter. In 1954 he met the young Queen Elizabeth II in Canberra, and he was awarded citizenship status in 1957. One of the consequences of citizenship was that Namatjira was legally entitled to buy alcohol, but when he shared it with his fellow Arrernte, as custom required, he was sentenced to imprisonment. Although the sentence was commuted, he never recovered, and he died the following year. Over sixty years after his death, Namatjira remains the best known Australian Aboriginal painter.

Axel Poignant began photographing Aboriginal people during excursions to Pingelly, Western Australia in 1938 and the Canning Stock Route in 1942. He spent three months with Namatjira and his wife Rubina (Ilkalita, 1903–1974) while working as a cameraman on Namatjira the Painter. A Kukatja woman, Ilkalita and Albert had five sons and three daughters who survived infancy. During his time with the Namatjiras, Poignant developed a strong appreciation of the bond between Aboriginal people and their Country.

Purchased 1999

The National Portrait Gallery respects the artistic and intellectual property rights of others. Works of art from the collection are reproduced as per the Australian Copyright Act 1968 (Cth). The use of images of works from the collection may be restricted under the Act. Requests for a reproduction of a work of art can be made through a Reproduction request. For further information please contact NPG Copyright.

Artist and subject

Axel Poignant (age 40 in 1946)

Albert Namatjira (age 44 in 1946)

Rubina Namatjira (age 43 in 1946)

Subject professions

Visual arts and crafts

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The National Portrait Gallery acknowledges the Traditional Custodians of Country throughout Australia and recognises the continuing connection to lands, waters and communities. We pay our respect to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultures and to Elders past and present. We respectfully advise that this site includes works by, images of, names of, voices of and references to deceased people.

This website comprises and contains copyrighted materials and works. Copyright in all materials and/or works comprising or contained within this website remains with the National Portrait Gallery and other copyright owners as specified.

The National Portrait Gallery respects the artistic and intellectual property rights of others. The use of images of works of art reproduced on this website and all other content may be restricted under the Australian Copyright Act 1968 (Cth). Requests for a reproduction of a work of art or other content can be made through a Reproduction request. For further information please contact NPG Copyright.

The National Portrait Gallery is an Australian Government Agency