Hamburg, Germany 1877 – Mt Barker, South Australia, Australia 1968
not titled [The bluff, Arkaba].
Arkaba, Flinders Ranges, South Australia, Australia
Materials & Technique: drawings, watercolours, painting in watercolour over drawing in black pencil Support: paper
Namatjira did not work at an easel when painting outdoors, directly in front of the subject. He usually sat on the ground, with his paper pinned to a wooden drawing board that he propped or held at an angle in front of him. This meant he was usually looking across at his subject from a low angle, unless he chose a position on a slope or peak, which created an elevated perspective. With the cropped tree motif, Namatjira could have moved back and included the rest of the tree in the composition. He chose instead to exclude the branches, thus strengthening the image. He has cut them off at that point where they would have dissipated the focus.
Rex Battarbee used this composition for many of his paintings of trees. It is likely that he had been attracted to Hans Heysen's 'heroic gums', which follow the same format.
Text © National Gallery of Australia, Canberra