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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.

Rex Battarbee

c. 1970
Rennie Ellis

type C photograph on paper (sheet: 62.0 cm x 47.0 cm, image: 29.4 cm x 43.9 cm)

Rex Battarbee OBE (1893-1973), art teacher, had no formal training in art before he won the Melbourne Centenary Prize for Watercolour in 1934. The same year he visited the Northern Territory with another Victorian artist, John Gardner, and together they showed their paintings at the Hermannsburg Mission school. Albert Namatjira saw them, and determined to produce similar works himself. Taught by Battarbee how to use watercolours, Namatjira took to the medium with enthusiasm. Battarbee included some of Namatjira's work in an exhibition of his own in Adelaide in 1937, and helped him to organise the first of many successful shows of his own a year later. Namatjira remains one of the best known Aboriginal people of the twentieth century. Battarbee moved to Hermannsburg and taught other painters, giving rise to the Arrernte School of watercolourists in the 1940s and 1950s. During the war he was charged with looking after the community, which had been established by German missionaries. In 1951 he opened a gallery in Alice Springs, and his book Modern Australian Aboriginal Art was published; the book Modern Aboriginal Paintings appeared twenty years later.

Collection: National Portrait Gallery
Purchased 2006
© Rennie Ellis Photographic Archive
www.RennieEllis.com.au

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

Rennie Ellis (age 30 in 1970)

Rex Battarbee (age 77 in 1970)

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