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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.

Albert Namatjira, Artist, Alice Springs

Ern McQuillan

gelatin silver photograph on paper (image/sheet: 40.5 cm x 30.5 cm)

Albert Namatjira (1902-59) became interested in painting at the Hermannsburg Mission in the 1930s. After learning watercolour technique, he was persuaded to exhibit his work in Melbourne in 1938. 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 he 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 after his death, Namatjira remains the best-known of Australian Aboriginal painters.

Collection: National Portrait Gallery
Purchased 2003
© Estate of Ern McQuillan

Accession number: 2003.106

Currently not on display

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Artist and subject

Ern McQuillan

Albert Namatjira

Subject professions

Visual arts and crafts

Related information

The Companion

Permanent collection catalogue

Café and shop

On one level The Companion talks about the most famous and frontline Australians, but on another it tells us about ourselves: who we read, who we watch, who we listen to, who we cheer for, who we aspire to be, and who we'll never forget. The Companion is available to buy online and in the Portrait Gallery Store.

Albert Namatjira portrait story video: 2 minutes
Albert Namatjira portrait story video: 2 minutes
Albert Namatjira portrait story video: 2 minutes
Albert Namatjira portrait story video: 2 minutes

Albert Namatjira

'You must not lose it'

Portrait story

The art and landscape of Albert Namatjira.

Betty Cuthbert, 1955 (printed 2003) Ern McQuillan
Betty Cuthbert, 1955 (printed 2003) Ern McQuillan
Betty Cuthbert, 1955 (printed 2003) Ern McQuillan
Betty Cuthbert, 1955 (printed 2003) Ern McQuillan

Hop, skip, shoot

Magazine article by Simon Elliott, 2004

Former NPG Deputy Director, Simon Elliott talks with Ern McQuillan about his life and career as a sports photographer.

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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.