The story of Albert Namatjira’s brilliant career is both exciting and shocking and seems incredible today. It was momentous in the 1950s when I was a teenager and it made a big impact on me. Albert’s watercolours and those of the school he pioneered were hugely popular but controversial in high art circles. They were unlike the ubiquitous pastoral landscapes or the romantic expressionist paintings appearing in the capital cities. We were told that this was Western Aranda country.
Albert Namatjira was the first Aboriginal Australian to be listed in Who’s Who, was presented to Queen Elizabeth and yet he died aged 57 a broken man after serving a prison term at Papunya in August 1959.
Albert inspired his tribal relatives who together founded the first Australian Aboriginal art movement to present paintings for sale beyond their small community.
As a child, my parents and I generally holidayed in the Victorian countryside, which I loved. My father always loved art and avidly read The Age Literary Supplement each Saturday and often discussed items with me. He also regularly, during all of my primary and secondary school years, took me to the National Gallery of Victoria to look at and discuss old masters, European and Australian. My love of art had started.
By the 1970s I was married and with the children at school, I commenced art studies and painting at Caulfield Institute of Technology, (which later became Monash University) and completed the History of Art major, the Methods of Production (Materials and Techniques) sub major and first year studio practice in painting, drawing and printmaking as a part time student. Credits for my art studies were incorporated into my social sciences Bachelor of Arts in the 1980s and I completed my PhD in Australian Government in 1992 at Deakin University.