The Watercolourists of Central Australia

Stunning Aboriginal landscapes lit up the lives of white Australians during the 1940s, 50s and 60s. 

The romantic, luminous watercolour landscapes on paper from Central Australia, west of Alice Springs, were created by young Western Arrernte men in their tribal area of Ntaria, known to the general community as the Hermannsburg Mission.

The first exhibition of the pioneer Albert Namatjira was held in Melbourne in 1938. After it sold out, close tribal relatives joined with Albert to start their careers as founders of a spectacular art movement – named The Hermannsburg School of Modern Art.

This website is intended to better inform the art world and the public and encourage greater interest in the beautiful and significant work of The Hermannsburg School.

Dr Beverley Castleman’s fascination with these beautiful paintings started in her teenage years, and was further stimulated by the drama and tragedy surrounding Albert. (About the Author). 

Beverley spent many years collecting and studying paintings created by the artists, including many in public collections. She gratefully acknowledges the access provided by the National Gallery of Australia, the Flinders University Art Museum and the National Gallery of Victoria.

Her research included understanding the social environment in which the school developed, and study of the individual artists works. As most paintings are not dated, the research included estimating when the individual paintings were created and the influences each artist had on others.

This substantial body of research is the major content of this website. It is intended that the content will be of major educational value to the public as well as relevant professionals and will stimulate further research into the School. Learned comment and criticism is welcome.

Exploring this website.

Dr Castleman’s manuscript has been broken into sections to enable a better experience for the online reader:

The Artists of The Hermannsburg School

Index to individual pages featuring the artist, personal history and featuring works from the Castleman Collection. 

Gallery of Paintings

Scroll through images of paintings from the Castleman Collection.

Artists Activity Timeline

An occurrence chart was compiled for each of the 34 career artists in which the dates, or estimated dates of creation of each painting were entered together with the location of the collection in which the painting belongs. This provides an evidence based picture of the period of activity of the School.

Evaluation of the wider impacts of The Hermannsburg School

Most modernist figurative landscape art in Australia reflected a sense of isolation especially in relation to the outback or central Australia, notably in the frontier like landscapes of Drysdale, Boyd, Nolan and Tucker. For these romantic expressionists the landscape was the stage for human drama rather than the subject as it was with the Arrernte artists.