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The Lutheran Mission of Hermannsburg, in Central Australia held an exhibition which was arranged by the mission's superintendent Pastor F.W. Albrecht and featured the works of traveling artists Rex Battarbee and John Gardner.
The western style and outlook was unfamiliar, instead the Western Arrernte Aboriginal people interpreted their land topographically. Their art was symbolic, it consisted of totemic markings which represented storey, people and nature. These patterns were made up of wavy or parallel lines, semi and concentric circles. This visual language was written on sand, rock and sacred objects such as Tjurungas.
The exhibition fired the imagination and interest in painting of Albert Namatjira. He soon mastered the use of watercolours but in a very individual style.

The foundation of the Hermannsburg school turned the cottage industry of indigenous craft making.
Albert's success encouraged a new generation of artists. Walter Ebatarinja was one of the first to take up painting. He was soon followed by the Pareroultja brothers and Albert's sons. In 1941 Rex Battarbee founded the Aranda Art Group. This group controlled the supply of materials and helped handle the business affairs of the emerging artists.
The Arrernte artists were inspired by the subjects story. How it came into being and its connection with the Dream Time. This inspiration gave there work a unique dimension separate from the laws binding traditional landscapes. In the best works trees were painted as ancestral beings with body like trunks & arm like branches. The watercolours also conveyed this spiritual connection with the land. One thing they shared was an intimate knowledge of the lands on which they had lived for thousands of years.

It is important to note that Ghost Gums are sacred and form an important part of Western Arrernte mythology.
All Hermannsburg watercolours portray distinct Aboriginal qualities. These include observation of detail, expressive colour palette and sensitive choice of subject. By adopting the western influence the Arrernte artists were sharing their unique view of the land and bridging the gap between both cultures.

Acknowledgments Hermannsburg School

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