Palm Valley 1940s by Albert Namatjira Source

The Hermannsburg School of Painting

The watercolour traditions of the Namatjira school of painting need no introduction. Hermannsburg mission has a large collection of these paintings.

The Hermannsburg School is an art style, which began at the Hermannsburg Mission in the 1930s. The best-known artist of the style is Albert Namatjira, however there are many other artists of merit that came after him. The movement is characterised by watercolours of western-style landscapes that depict the striking colours of the Australian outback.

The landscape around Hermannsburg Mission provided endless inspiration for the artists with its rugged mountains, deep gorges and arid plains. Its beauty is balanced by its harshness when in drought. The orange red soils and the pale-yellow sands of the Finke River are complimented by a variety of greens and the cool white trunks of the eucalypts.

Watercolour painting was introduced by Rex Battarbee, who first came to the area with fellow painter John Gardner in 1932. After two subsequent visits and a local exhibition of their paintings, Battarbee took special interest in Albert Namatjira and tutored him in watercolour painting. Battarbee moved to Central Australia in 1940 and during the 1940s and 1950s he was a member and chairman of what was then the Aranda Arts Council. Some other well-known artists who painted in this style include Otto Pareroultja (1914-1973), Edwin Pareroultja (1918-86), and Reuben Pareroultja (1916-1984), Richard and Gloria Moketarinja. 

Richard Moketarinja (1918-1983) worked in the Army labour unit during World War Two and found a ready market for mulga wood artefacts which he decorated and sold to United States and Australian servicemen. Richard’s painting style has been described as retaining a more traditional ‘look’ in his painting than most of the other artists 1. Many of Richard’s paintings were created in Palm Valley and some in the Glen Helen Valley and Gorge area.

Some of the original artworks can still be seen in the galleries at the Hermannsburg Historic Precinct.

  • The Hermannsburg School of Modern Art