Gnarled Gum Central Australia (working title)
Albert Namatjira 1902-1959
DIMENSIONS: 27.5cm (11ins) x 38cm (15ins)
MATERIAL: Artists paper, pencil (or charcoal) & water colour
CONDITION: Fine unfoxed bright gallery presentation. Under glass in original unopened frame.
Right hand corner folded during matting?
AGE: Mid C20.
ETHNOGRAPHY: This painting is atypical for the strong non minimalist treatment of the main subject of gum tree trunk & base. The gnarled section at the base of the gum tree is reminiscent of Namatjira’s contemporary Otto Pareroultja’s (1914-1973) writhing traditional secret sacred ritual totemic iconography.
PROVENANCE: A Melbourne Gallery purchase (1938?) & hence by descent. The April 1944 one man show at the Myer Mural Hall Melbourne No.33 Ghost Gum Western MacDonnells for 30 pounds may be this painting? No dimensions given in catalogue. Work has not ever been shown publicly since this 1944 gallery sale.
VALUATION: An important & exceptionally strong, bold confident work of a painter at his peak. A flawless, deft masterpiece of water colour technique, composition & colour. This work displays not only all of the most significant characteristics expected of a great Namatjira but also presents significant additional content & style. In comparison with many other Namatjira examples this work is painted within an inch of its life. There is no minimalism in the execution. There is no hint of the Namatjira signature technique of knowing “how little was enough” when referring to paint & wash application. The consummated skill displayed in this work is knowing, with masterful execution, how far to push a work. There are number of aspects of this painting which will greatly add to the corporate knowledge of how we view Namatjira, both man & work. The Parrroultja style gum tree base begs a major question. The irresistible conclusion is that this, at the very least, is homage to Otto. The washed sky is Hilder in subtlety.
If the analogy, as Wenton Rebuntja observed, that the early Hermannsberg school water colour paintings were about song (& the later Papunya Tula dots about ceremony) holds true, then this masterpiece work is a full symphony song cycle of colour, shade, black & white.
There have been 934 works attributed to Albert Namatjira sold through major auction house sale room floors in the past twenty five years in Australia. Highest value achieved thus far is Aud$ 96,000 for a water colour landscape 28cm x 38.7cm Sotheby’s Melb. Oct 2006. Lot No. 23.