Hermannsburg School Founders
Apart from Albert Namatjira, the twelve founders, listed in the order they began painting, were:
Albert Namatjira’s guiding artist and mentor Rex Battarbee expressed the atmospheric clarity of the generally dry country in clear colours, letting the white of the paper glow through the paint.
It will be noticed that lemon yellow, the most luminous colour in the spectrum was often applied as a wash by the Hermannsburg artists (to act as a ground), over which foliage and vegetation were described. In some paintings lemon was mainly used (delicately or stridently) to backlight foliage.
Other clear colours – blues, reds and crimson – were applied and ‘greys’ or shadows were achieved from mixes of near colours which are vibrant together such as bright red and ultramarine blue. The white areas of ghost gum trunks or river beds were sometimes left unpainted, leaving the texture of the paper in a similar role to that of smooth sand in a traditional ground painting.
The unique luminous quality of the landscape is in varying degrees a common characteristic of Hermannsburg watercolour art and is one of the factors that assist the recognition of a painting as being of the Hermannsburg School.
In contrast European watercolourists often applied a grey wash before applying other colours over the first wash, thus enabling them to portray the misty qualities of their damper climate. Luminosity was important to the artists and Rex Battarbee helped the artists to achieve this.
Distinctly Arrernte factors include the animate quality of many landscape elements such as hills and trees, along with their traditional love of the parallels in composition design, decoration and infill patterns with dots and diamonds.
In Hermannsburg art, dots normally have a subsidiary but important role as infill, including decorative infill, whereas in Papunya art, dots may have a wider range of roles, from subsidiary infill, to outlining shapes, to obscuring of sacred hieroglyphs, and to an orchestration of patterning as the main element in a composition.
Rhythm and patterning were important in traditional everyday life. Common implements such as boomerangs and coolamons (to carry food or babies) were often decorated with simple elegant patterns. Carefully incised parallel lines following the shape of the boomerang or other implements were aimed at improving function. Red ochre mixed with fat might be rubbed in to preserve the wood.
Where colour was used in traditional ceremony it was used to the fullest intensity possible – red and yellow ochres, black and white, which were the available colours. Contrasting textures were elaborate, but ephemeral, as the designs were left to disintegrate with the elements after completion of ceremony.
Visual creations, like the song and dance, were collaborative and occurred together as part of each ceremony. Ceremonial men played their active roles in the orchestrations.