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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.

Albert and his wife Rubina, Macdonnell Ranges

1946
Axel Poignant

gelatin silver photograph, selenium toned on paper (40.6 cm x 56.0 cm)

Arrernte artist Albert Namatjira (1902–1959) is one of Australia's most celebrated and important artists. He is recognised as the first person to link Aboriginal art and culture with European painting techniques. Born at Hermannsburg (Ntaria) near Alice Springs, Namatjira had been making art for much of his life before becoming interested in watercolour painting in the 1930s. Exhibiting from 1938 to acclaim and working prolifically, demand for his paintings increased during the 1940s. Though famous by the 1950s, First Nations people were not recognised in the Australian constitution at this time and faced widespread prejudice and inequality. Namatjira met Queen Elizabeth II in Canberra in 1954, and was the first Aboriginal person to receive citizenship in 1957, but restrictions on his family and his community remained engrained and complex, ultimately leading to his death in 1959. His distinctive style, though seemingly taking on the appearance of Western landscape traditions is rooted in deep ancestral connection and knowledge of the lands spanning his father's country around the MacDonnell Ranges and his mother's country in the region of Palm Valley in Central Australia. The Gamatj clan leader Yunupingu AM leader has explained that in his work Namatjira 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'.

Photographer Axel Poignant spent three months with Namatjira and his wife Rubina (Ilkalita, 1903–1974) while working as a cameraman on Namatjira the Painter. A Kukatja woman, Ilkalita and their children often travelled with Albert on painting trips and another photograph by Poignant taken at the same time shows the family together. This image was taken on Arrernte Country in the MacDonnell Ranges, likely near Mparntwe/Alice Springs, in the Northern Territory.

Purchased 1999

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

Axel Poignant (age 40 in 1946)

Albert Namatjira (age 44 in 1946)

Rubina Namatjira (age 43 in 1946)

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