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Lot #1 - Albert Namatjira

  • Auction House:
    Deutscher and Hackett
  • Sale Name:
    Important Australian Aboriginal Art
  • Sale Date:
    30 Mar 2022 ~ 7pm (AEDT)
  • Lot #:
    1
  • Lot Description:
    Albert Namatjira
    (1902 - 1959)
    Looking West Spring Gap
    watercolour on paper
    28.0 x 39.0 cm (sheet)
    signed lower right: ALBERT NAMATJIRA; signed and inscribed with title verso: Looking West Spring Gap / Albert Namatjira
  • Provenance:
    Private collection, United Kingdom; Phillips, London, 6 March 2001, lot 285 (2); Private collection, United Kingdom
  • Notes:
    ‘…Many years ago, an Aboriginal man from central Australia, Albert Namatjira, became very famous as a painter. Using Western watercolour techniques he painted many landscapes. But what non-aboriginal people didn’t understand, or chose not to understand, was that he was painting his country, the land of the Arrernte people. He was demonstrating to the rest of the world the living title held by his people to the lands they had been on for thousands of years.’1 Although an accomplished craftsman producing poker work decorated woomeras, boomerangs and wooden plaques, it was not until viewing an exhibition of watercolours by Victorian artists Rex Battarbee and John Gardner at the Hermannsburg Mission in 1934, that Albert Namatjira truly embarked upon painting as a profession. Immediately captivated by the medium, Namatjira pleaded to be taught watercolour techniques and eventually Battarbee agreed to Namatjira accompanying him on two month-long expeditions in 1936 through the Palm Valley and MacDonnell Range areas. And thus began the cultural exchange that was to become a defining feature of their long relationship; Battarbee instructing Namatjira about the Western technique of watercolour painting, and in turn, Namatjira imparting his sacred knowledge about the subjects they were to paint, namely the land of the Western Aranda people, his ‘Dreaming’ place. So impressive was Namatjira’s skill that Battarbee remarked after only a brief period, ‘I felt he had done so well that he had no more to learn from me about colour’.2 Success and recognition soon followed and Namatjira was launched into the spotlight as a cultural ‘icon’ - internationally acclaimed and admired for his innovative, vibrantly coloured desert landscapes that encouraged ‘new ways of seeing the Centre.’ Although today synonymous with our vision of the Australian outback, Namatjira’s art nevertheless experienced many vicissitudes over the course of the last century. Although his first solo exhibition in 1938 at the Fine Arts Society in Melbourne was a sell-out success, with popularity and fame continuing throughout his lifetime, praise for Namatjira’s skilful adaptation of a Western medium was inevitably accompanied by a bitter twist; his paintings ‘…were appreciated because of their aesthetic appeal, but they were at the same time a curiosity and sign that Aborigines could be civilised’.3 Ironically such perceived ‘assimilation’ would later bring his art into disrepute with Namatjira virtually ignored by the Australian art establishment during the 1960s and 70s. Fortunately, the Papunya Tula Aboriginal art ‘renaissance’ and cultural politics of reconciliation during the 80s prompted long overdue reassessment of Namatjira’s unique contribution, and more recently, he has received the recognition he so deserves with three biographies published, and three major exhibitions mounted by public galleries, including a retrospective at the National Gallery of Australia in 2002 to celebrate the centenary of his birth, 'Seeing the Centre: The Art of Albert Namatjira 1902 – 1959'. With their striking aesthetic appeal and embedded, multi-layered possibilities of meaning, 'Looking West Spring Gap' and the following lot 'Glen Helen Gorge', offer superb examples of Namatjira’s achievements, encapsulating the highly unique vision that has subsequently inspired generations of Indigenous and non-Indigenous artists alike across Australia. As Belinda Croft elucidates, however, ‘Albert’s Gift’ was more far-reaching than simply the tangible legacy of his art, ‘…more than the sum parts of watercolour paints on paper. It is an essence that resides in the strength of Namatjira’s work – his courage, his sorrow, his spirituality – in these days of ‘reconciliation’, but most of all, in the spiritual heritage of every indigenous person in Australia.’4 1. Galarrwuy Yunupingu cited in ‘The black/white conflict’ in Caruana, W. (ed.), 'Windows on the Dreaming,' Australian National Gallery, Canberra, Ellsyd Press, Sydney, 1989, p. 14; 2. Morphy, H., 'Aboriginal Art,' Phaidon Press, London, 1998, p. 268; 3. Ibid., p. 270; 4. Croft, B., ‘Albert’s Gift’ in French, A., 'Seeing the Centre: The Art of Albert Namatjira', 1902 – 1959, National Gallery of Australia, Canberra, 2002, p. 148 VERONICA ANGELATOS
  • Estimate:
    A$25,000 - 35,000
  • Realised Price:
    *****

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  • Category:
    Art

This Sale has been held and this item is no longer available. Details are provided for information purposes only.



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