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Major gift of Albert Namatjira paintings celebrated in exhibition at the National Gallery of Australia
Albert Namatjira, Mount Sonder, West MacDonnell Ranges, Central Australia c. 1945. Painting in watercolour over faint underdrawing in black pencil. National Gallery of Australia, Canberra. Gift of Marilyn Darling AC in memory of Gordon Darling AC CMG 2016. Donated through the Australian Government's Cultural Gifts Program.

CANBERRA.- The National Gallery of Australia is celebrating the philanthropic legacy of L. Gordon Darling AC, CMG and Marilyn Darling AC with Painting Country, a comprehensive survey of watercolours and painted objects by Western Arrarnta artist Albert Namatjira. Featuring 40 works of art gifted by the Darlings to the NGA, this stunning exhibition captures the renowned Australian benefactors’ immense appreciation of Namatjira’s impact and lasting influence. These works have never been displayed in public.

The exhibition looks at Namatjira’s early focus on people and animals and includes a series of watercolours that track the ancient path of one of the oldest waterways in the world, the Finke River, as it carves its way to the edge of the Simpson Desert.

The majority of the NGA’s collection of Namatjira’s works was generously gifted by the Darlings from their private collection between 2008 and 2016. A recent bequest from the late Gordon Darling established a fund to support the research and future acquisition of works of art by Hermannsburg artists, who continue to draw inspiration from Namatjira’s distinctive style.

Painting Country is a free exhibition and visitors can also see Defying Empire: 3rd Indigenous Art Triennial, another free exhibition on display until 10 September.

Albert Namatjira (28 July 1902 – 8 August 1959), born Elea Namatjira, was a Western Arrernte-speaking Aboriginal artist from the MacDonnell Ranges in Central Australia. As a pioneer of contemporary Indigenous Australian art, he was the most famous Indigenous Australian of his generation.

Born and raised at the Hermannsburg Lutheran Mission outside Alice Springs, Namatjira showed interest in art from an early age, but it was not until 1934 (aged 32), under the tutelage of Rex Battarbee, that he began to paint seriously. Namatjira's richly detailed, Western art-influenced watercolours of the outback departed significantly from the abstract designs and symbols of traditional Aboriginal art, and inspired the Hermannsburg School of painting. He became a household name in Australia and reproductions of his works hung in many homes throughout the nation. As the first prominent Aboriginal artist to work in a modern idiom, at the time he was widely regarded as representative of successful assimilation policies.

Namatjira was the first Northern Territory Aboriginal person to be freed from restrictions that made Aboriginal people wards of the State. In 1957, he became the first Aboriginal person to be granted restricted Australian citizenship, which allowed him to vote, have limited land rights and buy alcohol. In 1956 his portrait, by William Dargie, became the first of an Aboriginal person to win the Archibald Prize. Namatjira was also awarded the Queen's Coronation Medal in 1953, and was honoured with an Australian postage stamp in 1968.

With biographical information from

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