Wenten grew up, in the area of the Alice Springs town and surrounding cattle stations, free of the traditional cultural strictures which affected most Hermannsburg School artists. He was not under the direct influence of either the Lutheran Finke River Mission or the senior Aboriginal men from the Mission’s area of influence around Hermannsburg and to the west. According to Wenten, both groups tended to be more strict culturally than those around Alice Springs. The author considers Wenten to have been a master of the Hermannsburg School style.
Wenten started to paint seriously in Alice Springs in 1960 after Albert Namatjira died in 1959. Throughout Wenten’s heavy drinking period in the 1960s through to 1976 he created glowing watercolour paintings, by the creek or in his beer garden ‘studios’, which were sold to fund drinking parties with his friends who watched as they waited to sell the new painting and share the proceeds. Many of these paintings are very engaging and intuitive and they reveal a talented, relaxed and sensitive personality.
Wenten’s life took on a new meaning in 1976 when he became an important leader of the Aboriginal land rights movement. Wenten was elected Chairman of the Central Land Council by August 1976. Despite pressure from family and friends, he stopped his heavy drinking to focus on his new role.
As a leader immersed in discussion and debate with a range of people, he came to understand more of other perspectives than maybe otherwise. Perhaps this affected his decision to paint more carefully in ‘two ways’, both elaborate pictorial watercolour landscapes and his version of Western Desert inspired acrylics.
He described the ‘dot art’ symbolic landscapes as ‘the law’ and the watercolour expressions of how the country looked as ‘the song’. His traditional paintings portrayed aspects of ancient traditional symbolism familiar to most Aboriginal people. In addition, some included figurative images of spears, boomerangs, snakes and lizards. A recurrent theme in his Hermannsburg style paintings was about finding a way, perhaps as in life.
While other Hermannsburg painters reflected the traditional and white cultures in one painting, Wenten after the mid 1970s achieved continual painting separately in two ways. In the late 1970s the general Hermannsburg School was losing some of its momentum as artists died or stopped painting. His extraordinary career continued through the 1980s and well into the 1990s.
From the mid 1970s, Wenten and artist Clem Abbott shared a compositional device of rocky cliffs framing each side, which thrusted toward the centre dramatically. However, Clem’s thrusting cliffs framed a distant and less intimate world which he described schematically with traditional decorative dot and line infill.
Wenten grew up in the Alice Springs area where his parents worked on stations and in the town area. Wenten lived at Little Flower Catholic Mission near Alice Springs in the early 1940s and was familiar with both Catholic and Lutheran teaching. From 1945 he lived near the Bungalow settlement on the Todd River near Alice Springs. In the late 1950s the Administration built a new settlement about fourteen kilometres south-east of Alice Springs at a location Arrernte people called Ipmengkwerene, and rendered ‘Ammoonguna’ by the Administration. 
Wenten managed to have a fairly flexible life working ‘where, when and with whom he liked’.
Details of his early life are unclear. It is estimated that Wenten Rubuntja was born in around 1926. However, he was listed as Winton Numaja in the Register of Wards of 13 May 1957, which recorded 1915 as the year of his birth. According to Wenten he was born at Burt’s Creek to the north of Alice Springs somewhere between 1923 and 1928.  Wenten was the son of Bob Rubuntja, a sheep and goat shepherd. Wenten Rubuntja was the major artist of the Rubuntja family.
According to Heritage, Wenten was Arrernte, Subsection (Skin) Pengarte. Wenten married Cynthia Uburtja in the late 1950s and shared a family connection with Clem Abbott as Clem’s mother was Katie Uburtja. Wenten and Cynthia’s son Mervyn, born 1959, became an artist in the watercolour tradition and is represented in the author’s collection.
Wenten and Ambrose Rubuntja were the sons of Bob Rubuntja, a goatherd. They were Arrernte, possibly Northern Arrernte. Subsection Pengarte. While Wenten had a career as an artist only a few paintings were created by Ambrose. A relative, Aubrey Rubuntja (born 31.10.1950) created a few paintings. Aubrey was the son of Eli and Leonore Rubuntja.
An oral evidence based auto-biography of Wenten’s life, co-authored with Jenny Green, was published in 2002.
Wenten’s first experiments with watercolour painting were probably in the late 1950s after watching Albert Namatjira paint. Albert was Wenten’s father’s cousin. Wenten was probably painting regularly from about 1960.
The earliest painting illustrated in the Wenten and Jenny Green book is from ‘circa’ 1968 and appears to be somewhat similar to Central Australian Landscape illustrated below. The three paintings at Araluen are undated but appear later than the illustration described as circa 1968. It is a challenge to estimate the approximate dates of Wenten’s paintings.
The earliest watercolour painting by Wenten to have been found is in Flinders University Art Museum 3125 and is apparently a memory or ‘studio’ painting: Untitled, est 1956-60 (watercolour on paper; 35.8 x 43 cm; signed lower left in fine paint brush in upper case: WENTEN RUBUNTJA). The author estimates that it was created around 1956 to 1960.
The composition contains an iconic mountain (possibly a version of Mt Gillen, near Alice Springs) and foreground red rocks thrusting towards the centre. The image is dominated by the gestural central tree. Form is more important than colour in this bicolour composition of red and blue, sometimes mixed to produce the muted colours. The painting is in a frame and there was no information on the backing of the frame. The image is stylised, indicating, perhaps, that this was not the artist’s first effort.