Albert Namatjira (1902-59) 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. During the 1940s his work became fashionable throughout Australia and he was the subject of a biography and a film. In 1954 he met the Queen 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 died the following year. Nearly 50 years after his death, Namatjira remains the best-known of Australian Aboriginal painters.
Accession number: 2003.106
More about the artist and subject
Magazine article, Portrait 12
Hop, skip, shoot
Former NPG Deputy Director, Simon Elliott talks with Ern McQuillan about his life and career as a sports photographer.
Permanent collection catalogue
On one level The Companion talks about the most famous and frontline Australians, but on another it tells us about ourselves: who we read, who we watch, who we listen to, who we cheer for, who we aspire to be, and who we'll never forget. The Companion is available to buy online and in the Portrait Gallery Store.