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Walter Ebatarinja

100 Career Overall Rank

79 2016 Market Rank

  • Born: 1915 - 1968
  • Active: 1955-1968

  • Region: Central Desert, NT
  • Community: Hermannsburg
  • Language: Arrernte

Walter Ebaterinja's paintings first appeared at auction in 1969, the year after his death. It was a measure of the affection owners felt toward his paintings that by 1984, 15 years later, only twenty five paintings had appeared for sale on the secodary market with the higheast result being $425, a quite considerable amount at the time.  As his works sold from the Hermannsburg mission during his lifetime for $5 to $20 this was a remarkable increase in value. By 1995, when Sotheby's held its first specialist Aboriginal art auction in Australia more than 200 works had been offered for sale with his record price being the $900 set by Lawsons in April 1993. 

Walter's success at public sale is quite remarkable though the average price of his works is very low at $699. Of 327 works offered for sale 83% have been successful. His low average price is acountable to the length of time since his death and his works first appearance in Australian auctions. If his early sales pre-1995 are discarded the average prices of his sales jumps dramatically. (Walter's AIAM100 rating accounts for this, as the rule that discounts an artist's ranking if their average prices fall below $1500 applies. Were this factor not taken into account, Walter's position amongst the most important artists of the movement would be significantly higher).

His current record price was set at Sotheby's in July 2007 when a lovely 39 x 57 cm image of Alice Springs as seen from Anzac Hill sold for $10,800. Another smaller image painted of the same scene from the same location sold in 2012 for $9,600 relegating an image entitled Aranda Landdscape that sold for $4,800 two years earlier to third place. Only 10 works have sold for more than $2,000 and 45 over $1000. That leaves no les than 295 paintings which have either failed to sell or have achieved a price under $1000 out of the 340 that have been offered for public sale.  All of Walter's sales over $1000 have been made post-2003. The reason? In 2002 the National Gallery of Australia staged its major retrospective Hermannsburg painting exhibition Seeing the Centre, curated by Alison French. At the time of the exhibition Hermannsburg works were considered a rather kitch anomoly in the history of Aboriginal desert art, having been transcended by the sheer volume of traditional desert dot paintings created post-1970. Subsquently, works by Albert Namatjira, and indeed all of the leading Hermannsburg watercolourists underwent a reappraisal and this has resulted in steadily increasing prices.

Walter Ebatarinja - ALICE SPRINGS FROM ANZAC HILL

ALICE SPRINGS FROM ANZAC HILL
Sold by N/A, N/A on 0000-00-00 for $0.00
Size: 34 x 51.5 cm

Walter Ebatarinja - (Aranda Landscape) (circa 1960),

(Aranda Landscape) (circa 1960),
Sold by Sotheby's Australia, Sydney on 30/11/2010 for $4,800.00
Size: 50 x 70 cm

Walter Ebatarinja - Central Australian Landscape, 1963

Central Australian Landscape, 1963
Sold by Lawson~Menzies, Sydney on 22/11/2006 for $3,360.00
Size: 72 x 52 cm

Walter Ebatarinja was among the amazed and delighted local Aboriginal audience who attended the initial exhibition of watercolours by Rex Batterbee and John Gardner at the Lutheran mission in Hermannsburg in 1932. Walter, already an accomplished craftsman, wished also to be taught the new painting method like his uncle Albert Namatjira. He had to wait however until Albert returned from his painting trips with the visiting artists, and then press him into imparting his new skills. Albert taught his sons to paint and a few of his wider relations, including Walter, often including them in his trips into the McDonnell Ranges and the dramatic gorges along the Finke River. In turn, Walter taught his wife Cordelia to paint, and then his sons Joshua and Desmond. In this manner the Hermannsburg School of watercolourists began.

Despite Namatjira’s popularity, much criticism was levelled at the Arrernte artists because of their adoption of European materials and the introduced Realist style, so foreign to the acceptable Aboriginal cultural experssion at the time. Critics called it a ‘popular craze’ or ‘pretty pictures’ of imitative value only, rather than of artistic merit. Yet their consistent sales proved a strong incentive and public appreciation carried the day. Their luminous watercolours found their way into the hearts and minds of the Australian imagination and finally the art establishment. Contrary to initial perceptions, this new translation of the landscape was actually in keeping with the traditional, spiritual relationship between the artists and their country. The paintings have genuine meaning, tracing as they do the much loved landforms, full of ancient stories and hidden sacred sites, not unlike the forms of other Aboriginal art that depict country from a taditional omnipotent perspective. The paintings are more than landscapes in the conventional sense of scenery. They arise as part of the land and reflect an attentive custodial sensibility towards it. Arrernte landscape painters are part of a continuing tradition that today is becoming more important than ever.

Walter’s son Desmond Ebatarinja recalls his parents’ artistic activities, which brought much needed money into the family during difficult drought years. The children were sent away to the mission school while Walter and Cordelia lived at the Palm Valley camp, twelve miles out of Hermannsburg and sold art to passing tourists. In those days, the paintings had to be stamped by the Native Affairs Branch to be 'approved' by the authorities and attract good price. Desmond remembers coming home at holidays and swimming in the Finke River and watching his father paint. Walter developed his own recognisable painterly style, often using clusters of dots and areas of parallel lines as he analysed the land in more broad and geometric terms. Cordelia meanwhile gave more attention to a decorative quality.  “When we’re painting country we think about the Dreaming of that country,” Desmond said. “My parents taught me to paint like that.” Arrernte country was centred around Alice Springs and, though the traditional owners were pushed to its outer missions and margins, today’s thriving art centres still rest on the enthusiasm, skill and international reputation of the foundational Hermannsburg painters.

Profile author: Sophie Pierce

Edited: Adrian Newstead

Collections:

Artbank, Sydney.; Art Gallery of South Australia, Adelaide.; Flinders University Art Museum, Adelaide.; Museum of Victoria, Melbourne.; National Gallery of Australia, Canberra.; National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne.; Parliament House Art Collection, Canberra.; Queensland Art Gallery, Brisbane.; The Kelton Foundation, Santa Monica, U.S.A.;

Exhibitions:

1963, The Melbourne Moomba Festival, Exhibition of Aboriginal Art, presented by the Aborigines Advancement League, in conjunction with the Myer Emporium, Melbourne, Victoria.; 1991, The Heritage of Namatjira at Flinders, Flinders University Art Museum, Bedford Park, South Australia.; 1992/93, The Heritage of Namatjira, touring exhibition, through Flinders University Art Museum.; 1995, Namatjira Ilakakeye, kinship, creativity and the continuing traditions of the Hermannsburg artists, Tandanya, Adelaide.

Bibliography:

Battarbee, R., 1951, Modern Australian Aboriginal Art, Angus and Robertson, Sydney. (C) ; Battarbee, R. and Battarbee, B., 1971, Modern Aboriginal Paintings, Rigby, Adelaide. (C) ; Berndt, R. M. and Berndt, C. H. with Stanton, J., 1982, Aboriginal Australian Art, a Visual Perspective, Methuen Australia Pty Ltd, Sydney. ; Hardy, J., Megaw, J.V.S. and Megaw, M.R. (eds), 1992, The Heritage of Namatjira - the Watercolourists of Central Australia, William Heinemann, Australia. (C)

Profile References

Green, J. 1988. Pmere : country in mind, Arrernte landscape painters. Alice Springs. Tangentyere Council.
Ngurratjuta Art Centre. 25/11/15. Ngurratjuta Iltja Ntjarra: Many Hands Art Centre (website). http://ngurart.com.au/. Ngurratjuta Art Centre.

Walter Ebatarinja - Central Australian Landscape

Central Australian Landscape
Sold by Deutscher~Menzies, Sydney on 16/06/2004 for $2,040.00
Size: 36 x 40.5 cm

Walter Ebatarinja - Central Australian Landscape, 1963

Central Australian Landscape, 1963
Sold by Lawson~Menzies, Sydney on 22/11/2006 for $3,360.00
Size: 72 x 52 cm

Walter Ebatarinja - Central Australian Landscape

Central Australian Landscape
Sold by Deutscher~Menzies, Sydney on 16/06/2004 for $1,920.00
Size: 44 x 36.5 cm

Sites

Hermannsburg Mission , Alice Springs , Palm Valley, Glen Helen Gorge, Mount Sonder

Subjects

Ghost Gums, Hermannsburg School, Landscape

Medium

Watercolour Paints on Paper , Watercolour Paints on Board

Regional Map

Note: This map is a representation and not accurate. Some sites are sacred and therefore not shown.

Market Performance

Career Totals

AIAM100 Rank
100
AIAM100 Rating
1.7188
Sold/Offered
286/346
Clearance Rate
83%
Average Price
$695
Total Price
$198,743
2000 2001 2002 2003 2004 2005 2006 2007 2008 2009 2010 2011 2012 2013 2014 2015 2016
0.1844 0.0799 0.0437 0.4407 0.5392 0.4030 0.3147 0.6441 0.2343 0.2617 0.7034 0.4118 0.2888 0.1042 0.0171 0.1375 0.2148
10/13 2/5 2/2 17/17 15/20 15/18 9/9 15/16 8/12 9/11 23/28 17/21 7/12 4/5 1/1 5/7 9/12
$340 $1,598 $479 $672 $1,292 $722 $1,223 $1,844 $858 $846 $935 $587 $1,702 $679 $293 $757 $570
Yearly Market Performance Graph from 2000 - 2016

Top 10 Artworks Sold at Auction

1

Alice Springs from Anzac Hill c. 1950

sale price: $10,800.00
auction: Sotheby's Australia Pty. Ltd., Melbourne  lot: 207 date: 24/07/2007
39 x 57 cm Watercolour on paper
2

Alice Springs from Anzac Hill (Circa 1960)

sale price: $9,600.00
auction: Sotheby's Australia, Sydney  lot: 45 date: 15/10/2012
34 x 51.5 cm Watercolour and pencil
3

(Aranda Landscape) (circa 1960),

sale price: $4,800.00
auction: Sotheby's Australia, Sydney  lot: 131 date: 30/11/2010
50 x 70 cm Watercolour and pencil on artist board signed 'Walter Ebatarinja' lower left
4

Central Australian Landscape, 1963

sale price: $3,360.00
auction: Lawson~Menzies, Sydney  lot: 30 date: 22/11/2006
72 x 52 cm Watercolour on board
5

Central Australian Landscape 1963

sale price: $3,120.00
auction: Lawson~Menzies, Sydney  lot: 199 date: 14/11/2007
72 x 52 cm Watercolour on paper
6

Palm Valley, James Range (Circa 1960),

sale price: $3,120.00
auction: Sotheby's Australia, Sydney  lot: 132 date: 30/11/2010
35 x 51 cm Watercolour and pencil on artist board signed 'Walter Ebatarinja' lower left
7

Corkwood Tree on Fringe of Mulga Scrub, Central Australia 1940s

sale price: $2,400.00
auction: Sotheby's Australia Pty. Ltd., Melbourne  lot: 171 date: 31/10/2006
24.5 x 37.5 cm Watercolour over pencil on paper
8

Central Australian Landscape

sale price: $2,330.00
auction: Badgery's Auctioneers , Sydney  lot: 170 date: 15/11/2004
53 x 73.5 cm Watercolour
9

Glen Helen Country

sale price: $2,200.00
auction: Scammell Auctions, Adelaide  lot: 37 date: 30/05/2004
49.5 x 69 cm Watercolour
10

Central Australian Landscape

sale price: $2,040.00
auction: Deutscher~Menzies, Sydney  lot: 379 date: 16/06/2004
36 x 40.5 cm Watercolour on paper

Available Artworks

Rutjipma
Rutjipma "Mt Sonder
Walter Ebatarinja 4

37 x 26 cm
#14116 LOCATION: Bondi Beach
$1,200.00

 by Walter Ebatarinja

Walter Ebatarinja 4

53 × 35 cm
#14115 LOCATION: Bondi Beach
$1,100.00

 by Walter Ebatarinja

Walter Ebatarinja 4

45 x 33 cm
#14113 LOCATION: Bondi Beach
$950.00

Rutjipma
Rutjipma "Mt Sonder with Corkwood"
Walter Ebatarinja 4

49 x 33 cm
#14112 LOCATION: Bondi Beach
$900.00