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Albert Namatjira

1902 – 1959

Albert Namatjira (1902-59), artist, learned to paint at the Hermannsburg Mission in the 1930s. He was persuaded to exhibit his watercolours in Melbourne in 1938, and 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 Namatjira 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 later, Namatjira remains the best-known of Australian Aboriginal painters.

Updated 2018