Many artists from Hermannsburg continue to practise using the style of watercolour landscapes developed by Albert Namatjira, the best known of all the Aboriginal artists of Australia. Hermannsburg is located approximately 100 km west of Alice Springs.
After Albert’s death in 1959, the reputation of his paintings went through a period of neglect, and the Hermannsburg style of art suffered from neglect. Over the last decade, the reputation of Hermannsburg water colour artists has grown again and there are now many skilled practitioners of this beautiful style of landscape painting which is imbued with a distinctively Aboriginal character.
The Western Arrernte artists whose biographies are given on this page work with the community art centre Ngurratjuta – Many Hands Art Centre in Alice Springs. The Art Centre supports over 400 artists with a special focus on supporting the “Hermannsburg School’ style watercolour artists.
These Hermannsburg artists are all represented by paintings on our Web site Paintings Gallery.
Douglas Kwarlpe Abbott born in 1954 and raised in Alice Springs by his parents Gordon and Joyleen Abbott. As a young boy, Douglas used to watch Albert Namatjira, Clem Abbott and the original Hermannsburg watercolour artists paint. Clem advised Douglas to find his own style and try to develop it, which he has done with great success. Douglas has been painting for many years, his paintings are found in many businesses in Alice Springs.
Douglas Kwarlpe Abbott
Marie was born and grew up at Hermannsburg. She is the daughter of Arthur and Katie (nee Uburtja) Abbott and is the younger sister of the late Clem Abbott, a highly respected water colourist. When Marie was born in 1953, Clem was already 19 years old. An accomplished painter, he influenced Marie and her cousin Douglas Abott, as well as Peter Taylor. He described how “In the old Hermannsburg school we used to paint, just with coloured pencils, and that way we learnt a bit” and “how I used to see old Namatjira and his sons painting, and watching him and I got ideas and learnt more”. He died in 1989.
Marie’s landscapes often combine clear washes of vibrant colour with overlays of linear patterning. She combines painting and drawing to produce images with clear simple forms-rocks, plains and mountains, separate into foreground, middle ground and distance, often framed by sinuous tree. Since 1996 the subject of her work has been illustrating bush foods and women gathering using symbolic designs and dotting, although she has also been painting watercolour landscapes once again.
Lenie is Albert Namatjira’s granddaughter, daughter to Oscar Namatjira, and was born in 1961. After an absence from Hermannsburg to attend mission school and complete three years service in the Army, Oscar returned to his family at Hermannsburg mission and took up painting like his father.
For a period of 12 months Oscar was Albert’s truck driver, driving Albert and his supplies to different painting locations. Oscar learnt to paint from his father and became a skilled practitioner. Oscar raised a large family, with Lenie being one of ten children.
Lenie and her siblings were all raised at Hermannsburg. Lenie paints in the tradition of her father and grandfather. Her watercolour paintings focus on the landscape west of Hermannsburg. Many of her paintings are drawn from childhood memories of her country.
Hubert has been painting watercolours since he was a young boy. He was inspired by his father Reuben Pareroultja, and uncles Otto and Edwin. The three brothers (Reuben, Otto and Edwin) were part of the original Hermannsburg watercolour movement and were all acclaimed artists.
Hubert remembers, as a young boy, watching Albert painting. Hubert paints many of the same locations that Albert painted, in particular Hermannsburg, Mt Sonder and James Range.
Ivy was born at Hermannsburg in 1952, her father Edwin Pareroultja was a well known watercolour artist. Ivy’s father along with his two brothers Reuben and Otto were part of the original Hermannsburg watercolour movement and were all skilled watercolour artists.
Ivy moved to Alice Springs in 1994 and continues in the tradition of her father and uncles. Ivy’s uses bold colours successfully creating emotive depiction’s of the central desert landscape.
Mervyn was born at the Telegraph Station in Alice Springs. His mother was a Western Arrernte woman and his father was the famous painter, the late Mr. W Rubuntja Pengarte.
His father has been an important role model for Mervyn. He was a senior Lawman and a respected member of his community. He fought for Aboriginal rights and protection of the land and worked alongside the Central Land Council and assisted in the Mabo decision.
Mervyn is following in his father’s footsteps and painting his watercolours in the way his father taught him. When Mervyn was 13 years old his family moved to Hermannsburg. This is where he first saw watercolour paintings as he watched his uncles Maurice, Oscar and Keith Namatjira painting like their father Albert. Arnulf Ebatarinja, another uncle, gave him some watercolour paperboard and told him to paint and that was the beginning for him. Mervyn’s family moved back to Alice Springs again in 1975 and he began to paint with Basil Rantji, who taught him how to mix colours. Then his father gave him some paperboards too and he watched his father painting. Mervyn lives at Larapinta camp.
Peter Tjutjatja Taylor
Peter was born in 1944 at Oodnadatta, South Australia and comes from a large family. Peter’s father worked as a station hand in the central desert region. As a small boy Peter accompanied his father as he worked stations from Horse Shoe Bend through to Hermannsburg.
These early years in Hermannsburg shaped Peter’s lifelong interest in painting. Not only did the picturesque location of Hermannsburg capture his imagination, but the example set by Albert Namatjira influenced him.
After completing his schooling in Adelaide, Peter returned to live in Alice Springs. Peter spent many hours painting alongside Clem Abbott and Keith Namatjira, where he further developed the initial drawing and painting skills he had learnt at school. Peter has painted all of his adult life and is a skilled mature watercolour artist.
Elton was born in 1990 and is the son of Doris Abbott and Kevin Wirri. Elton came to the art centre with his parents and showed a keen interest to paint watercolours like his father. Right from the start he showed much skill, and with some instruction from his father is now as a teenager producing some superb paintings.
As well as pursuing his interest in watercolours, Elton is also developing his skills in acrylic painting and has produced a number of works in this medium, including portraits combined with landscape.
His interests have extended to theatre and he performed in a sellout production of the show ‘Ngapartji Ngapartji’ at the Melbourne International Arts Festival in October 2005. Another performance Elton participated in is the award winning ‘Namatjira’ play that toured the country between 2010 and 2012.
Hilary is the brother of Kevin Wirri. Hilary was born in Ragged’s well approximately 40 km away from Papunya. He spent most of his time there as a kid watching well known artists like, Keith Namatjira, Edwin Pareroultja (Ivy’s father) and Joshua Ebatarinja (Stanley’s father) paint.
He started painting himself in the 1980s. He now has friends and family in Brisbane that help him sell some of his big water-colours as well as painting at Ngurratjuta.
Kevin was born in 1953 and raised at Haasts Bluff with his father kata Wirri and mother Freda Nangala. Kevin went to school in Papunya and Areyonga. When he grew up he worked at Haast’s Bluff. In 1974 he married Doris Abbott and came to live in Alice Springs.
He started working with the Tangentyere Council and in 1995 was elected to the Tangentyere Executive. He is a member of a group of traditional law men who make rules for Aboriginal people in the Central Australian region.
Kevin has been an artist all his life and has worked on several large art projects. One of these was the decoration of the store at Docker River where he designed and painted a mural. Kevin works mainly in watercolours and depicts the Central Australian landscape and the West MacDonnell Ranges in his own masterly style, which has made him an artist of renown. He and Doris have three children and one son Elton, who has emerged as highly accomplished watercolour artist.