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Oscar Namatjira

110 Career Overall Rank

118 2016 Market Rank

  • Born: 1922 - 1991
  • Active: 1950-1990

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

To be updated

Oscar Namatjira - Heavitree Gap (Circa 1960),

Heavitree Gap (Circa 1960),
Sold by Sotheby's Australia, Sydney on 30/11/2010 for $4,800.00
Size: 50 x 72 cm

Oscar Namatjira - Central Australian Landscape

Central Australian Landscape
Sold by Deutscher and Hackett, Melbourne on 14/10/2009 for $3,360.00
Size: 27 x 37.5 cm

Oscar Namatjira - Central Australia, c. 1960

Central Australia, c. 1960
Sold by Deutscher and Hackett, Melbourne on 25/03/2009 for $4,080.00
Size: 35 x 52 cm

Oscar Namatjira, second son of Albert Namatjira, grew up with his family in Hermannsburg west of Alice Springs. Albert, a fully initiated member of the Arrernte people, had eloped with Rubina of the neighbouring Luritja tribe. They returned to mission life in 1923 with the first three children of what was to become a large family. The mission and the Lutheran religion remained central to their lives, though this did not overshadow the traditional beliefs and tribal responsibilities that Albert still took very seriously. Ultimately, it was the anomalies between these two value systems that brought trouble to the family and Oscar’s famous father to a tragic end. His legacy lives on however, through his children and other Arrernte artists who have become known and loved worldwide as the Hermannsburg School. Though the mission is long closed (1982) and the community has reverted to its traditional name of Ntaria, Hermannsburg has been largely responsible for bringing the visual image of ‘the interior’ into the Australian psyche.

Oscar’s early years were not easy as there was a severe drought throughout the region and several of his younger siblings died of malnutrition. The production of arts and crafts brought in extra income however and Albert’s skill was recognised and fostered by two visiting artists. Famously, Rex Batterbee and John A. Gardener took Albert on their watercolour painting expeditions into the McDonnell Ranges, first as camel handler, then as apprentice artist and then as an artist himself of unique talent and escalating fame. As his sons grew, Albert would take them on painting trips too and often the whole family would travel his country during the dry months, living off the land in the traditional manner and observing and painting their beloved country. They would spend days in front of a chosen subject, capturing its elusive qualities through the key elements of light and colour. This was a response to the landscape born out of a deep affinity with it, an understanding of its transformations over time and the all-encompassing patience of a spiritual belief. Oscar absorbed this sensibility, alongside the watercolour techniques that allowed for its expression.

When World War Two broke out, Oscar was called away for three years to work in the land army. He returned to become Albert’s driver and resumed once more his own commitment to painting. Oscar married and began a large family of his own, many of whom would also take up the artistic mantle. But difficulties were increasing as Albert’s fame began to burden him with a whole host of contradictory claims from both the reigning European society and from his own Aboriginal people who were suffering under many outdated, racist rules and confusing regulations.  While his father travelled intermittently to the cities to attend sell out shows, meet the Queen and be painted in a prizewinning portrait for the Archibald (1956), sometimes taking a son with him, the family watched the father’s failing health and eventual, sad demise. Though the consequences of war had begun to change many things, they came slowly to far flung inland communities such as Hermannsburg. The family had retreated to a camp on the edge of Alice Springs where a steady flow of visitors arrived to buy their watercolours. It seemed an enthusiastic public could never get enough. Albert’s life had spanned a period of political change in Australia but he himself did not benefit from any of its improved outcomes.

The watercolours of Oscar Namatjira glow with an inner luminescence. Like his father before him, pictorial realism carries a sense of place that tugs at our heartstrings, just as once it resonated for them as they sat ‘plein air’, painting their ancient home; the vast rock faces, monolithic peaks, dramatic gorges and spacious vistas of tree and sky full of ancient stories. Rex Batterbee described Oscar as a shy, conservative man and a deep thinker. He leaned more toward pastel hues than his brothers and held to a clear structure in his work, with clean lines, clear colours and attention to meticulous detail.  While his father paved the way for the many professional Aboriginal artists who have followed in his wake, Oscar Namatjira also upheld Arrernte tradition, remaining faithful to the deep roots of a tremendous past that had etched its place indelibly into Australian history.

 

Collections:

Flinders University Art Museum, Adelaide.; Hermannsburg Art Gallery.; Museum of Victoria, Melbourne.; National Gallery of Australia, 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.; 1974 to 1976, Art of Aboriginal Australia, touring Canada, Rothmans of Pall Mall Canada Ltd.; 1989, A Myriad of Dreaming: Twentieth Century Aboriginal Art, Westpac Gallery, Melbourne; Design Warehouse Sydney [through Lauraine Diggins Fine Art] ; 1989, Aboriginal Art: The Continuing Tradition, National Gallery of Australia, Canberra; 1991, The Heritage of Namatjira at Flinders, Flinders University Art Museum, Bedford Park, South Australia.; 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. ; Diggins, L. (ed.), 1989, A Myriad of Dreaming: Twentieth Century Aboriginal Art, exhib. cat., Malakoff Fine Art Press, North Caulfield, Victoria. ; 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) ; 1974, Art of Aboriginal Australia, exhib. cat., Rothmans of Pall Mall Canada Limited. (C)

Profile References

French, A. 2002. Seeing the Centre: The Art of Albert Namatjira 1902-1959. Australia. National Gallery of Australia.
Batterbee, Rex & Bernice. 1971. Modern Aboriginal Painting. Adelaide. Rigby.
Levy, Curtis (director). 1975. Sons of Namatjira (film). Canberra. Ronin Films / Australian Institute of Aboriginal and Torres Strait island Studies.

Oscar Namatjira - Ghost Gums (Ratjik), Macdonnell Ranges

Ghost Gums (Ratjik), Macdonnell Ranges
Sold by Sotheby's Australia, Melbourne on 26/07/2010 for $5,280.00
Size: 37.5 x 27.7 cm

Oscar Namatjira - Central Australia, c. 1960

Central Australia, c. 1960
Sold by Deutscher and Hackett, Melbourne on 25/03/2009 for $4,080.00
Size: 35 x 52 cm

Oscar Namatjira - Gorge Near Glen Helen, Western MacDonnells Late 1940s

Gorge Near Glen Helen, Western MacDonnells Late 1940s
Sold by Sotheby's Australia Pty. Ltd., Melbourne on 31/10/2006 for $6,600.00
Size: 37 x 27 cm

Sites

Hermannsburg Mission

Subjects

Medium

Watercolour Paints on Board, Watercolour Paints on Paper

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
110
AIAM100 Rating
1.5401
Sold/Offered
245/273
Clearance Rate
90%
Average Price
$764
Total Price
$187,266
2000 2001 2002 2003 2004 2005 2006 2007 2008 2009 2010 2011 2012 2013 2014 2015 2016
0.2013 0.2023 0.1811 0.3529 0.1364 0.1425 0.3914 0.3571 0.6267 0.4362 0.6543 0.3536 0.1894 0.0893 0.0749 0.3135 0.1331
8/12 9/9 8/10 14/15 5/6 5/5 10/10 10/11 19/19 13/13 17/17 13/14 5/5 3/5 5/7 11/11 5/6
$633 $505 $512 $635 $744 $813 $1,532 $1,275 $1,088 $1,126 $1,482 $740 $1,435 $887 $224 $812 $709
Yearly Market Performance Graph from 2000 - 2016

Top 10 Artworks Sold at Auction

1

Gorge Near Glen Helen, Western MacDonnells Late 1940s

sale price: $6,600.00
auction: Sotheby's Australia Pty. Ltd., Melbourne  lot: 16 date: 31/10/2006
37 x 27 cm Watercolour over pencil on paper
2

Ghost Gums (Ratjik), Macdonnell Ranges

sale price: $5,280.00
auction: Sotheby's Australia, Melbourne  lot: 245 date: 26/07/2010
37.5 x 27.7 cm Watercolour and pencil on paper
3

Heavitree Gap (Circa 1960),

sale price: $4,800.00
auction: Sotheby's Australia, Sydney  lot: 129 date: 30/11/2010
50 x 72 cm Watercolour and pencil on artist board signed 'Oscar Namatjira' lower right
4

Untitled (Central Australian Landscape) 1963

sale price: $4,800.00
auction: Sotheby's Australia, Melbourne  lot: 89 date: 05/06/2012
35 x 52.5 cm Watercolour and pencil
5

Central Australia, c. 1960

sale price: $4,080.00
auction: Deutscher and Hackett, Melbourne  lot: 26 date: 25/03/2009
35 x 52 cm Watercolour on paper
6

Central Australian Landscape

sale price: $3,945.00
auction: Joel Fine Art, Melbourne  lot: 59 date: 05/06/2007
30 x 28 cm Watercolour on paper
7

(Valley View with Four Gums in Foreground)

sale price: $3,840.00
auction: Leonard Joel, Melbourne  lot: 298 date: 18/04/2010
35.8 x 53 cm Watercolour over pencil on paper
8

The Grandeur, Western MacDonnell Ranges

sale price: $3,565.00
auction: Elder Fine Art, Adelaide  lot: 171 date: 24/05/2015
53 x 72 cm Watercolour
9

Central Australian Landscape

sale price: $3,360.00
auction: Deutscher and Hackett, Melbourne  lot: 36 date: 14/10/2009
27 x 37.5 cm Watercolour on paper
10

Central Australian Landscape with Ghost Gum

sale price: $2,880.00
auction: Bonhams & Goodman, Adelaide  lot: 25 date: 02/03/2008
53.5 x 75 cm Watercolour

Available Artworks

 by Oscar Namatjira

Oscar Namatjira 4

26 x 37 cm
#14158
$2,500.00

 by Oscar Namatjira

Oscar Namatjira 4

53 x 37 cm
#14160
$1,500.00

 by Oscar Namatjira

Oscar Namatjira 4

33 x 49 cm
#14157
$900.00

Along the Flats, Mount Sonder by Oscar Namatjira
Along the Flats, Mount Sonder
Oscar Namatjira 4

53 x 37 cm
#14159
$900.00