In 1934 a Western Arrernte Aboriginal man by the name of Albert viewed an art exhibition at the Lutheran Mission of Hermannsburg, Central Australia. The exhibition was arranged by mission superintendent Pastor F.W. Albrecht and featured the works of traveling artists Rex Battarbee and John Gardner. Over the two day exhibition more than 300 Aboriginal people attended. They stood enchanted and amazed at the sight of their tribal lands as portrayed by the European artists.

List compiled October 2, 1958 at Hermannsburg
CRS E944, Item Hermannsburg
National Archives of Australia, Darwin Office


This report was written by Patrol Officer Colin Macleod.

Due to the creative genius and determination of one very special man, Albert Namatjira the Lutheran mission at Hermannsburg burst unexpectedly on to the Australian and International contemporary art scene in the late 1930's. Having joined Rex Battarbee's painting expedition in 1936 as a camel driver, and learnt his method of landscape watercolour painting, Albert's skill so impressed Battarbee that he noted after only a brief period that "I felt he had done so well that he had no more to learn from me about colour," (cited in Morphy 1998: 268). Namatjira's aptitude in capturing the high colouring of the desert landscape, the gorges and valleys of the country of his birth and his Dreaming saw him engage in a painting career over the following decades in which he created unforgettable images of the Western Macdonnell Ranges and their environs including Fink River, Palm Valley, Glen Helen, Haast's Bluff, Mt Sonder, and Ormiston Gorge as well as occasional images of sites further afield including Ayers Rock. His romantic depictions of the desert have become synonymous with our vision of the Australian outback.