Noel COUNIHAN, Albert Namatjira [second version]. Enlarge 1 /1


Melbourne, Victoria, Australia 1913 – Canterbury, Victoria, Australia 1986

  • Aotearoa New Zealand 1939-40
  • England, Europe 1949-52

Albert Namatjira [second version]. 1959
Collection Title: Lino Cuts Counihan '59, a set of six linocuts. Melbourne: the artist, 1959
Page: no.2
Place made: Melbourne, Victoria, Australia
Materials & Technique: prints, ink; paper linocut, printed in black ink, from one block Support: on paper
Edition State: published state
Impression: 21/50
Edition: edition of 50

Primary Insc: Signed and dated lower right below printed image in black pencil, 'Noel Counihan '59', titled lower left 'Albert Namatjira'
Dimensions: printed image 51.1 h x 23.2 w cm sheet 60.8 h x 30.4 w cm
Acknowledgement: Purchased 1999
Accession No: NGA 99.25.5
Subject: Australia, Art style: Social Realism
  • Purchased by the National Gallery of Australia, from Melbourne Fine Art Gallery, Melbourne, April 1999.

Namatjira's death, on 8 August 1959, is portrayed as moral crucifixion upon the social mores of the God-fearing society of the time in Noel Counihan's linocut Albert Namatjira 1959. Counihan, a noted communist and social realist artist, depicted Namatjira as a crucified figure looming above the spires of a city church.

A hand-printed impression of this linocut was reproduced to accompany the article by Noel Counihan, 'A tribute to a Great Man-Albert Namatjira', The Guardian, Melbourne, 27 August, 1959, p. 4. Counihan described his meeting with Namatjira in 1956 at a function given for him by Melbourne writers: 'He sat directly opposite me and said hardly a word except in answer to a direct question. I made two or three drawings on the basis of the sketch'. (Noel Counihan, letter to Robert Smith, 1 October 1978, quoted in Robert Smith, Noel Counihan prints, 1931-1981: a catalogue raison�e, Hale and Iremonger, Sydney, 1981, p. 78). A reproduction of a drawing, derived from the sketch described here, appears on the cover of the journal featuring another article by Noel Counihan, 'The tragedy of Albert Namatjira,' Overland, no.13, spring 1958, p. 2, pl. 1. See also Smith, 1981, pp. 78-9.

The poignancy of Counihan's allegory is emphasised when it is compared with the portrait by Sir William Dargie painted from life in Sydney three years earlier, in December 1956, at the height of Namatjira's fame.

Text © National Gallery of Australia, Canberra