Arrarnta people

Australia 1920 – 1966

not titled [Emus and dog] c.1955 Place made: Hermannsburg, Northern Territory, Australia
Materials & Technique: drawings, watercolours, graphite; paper; watercolour painting in watercolour over drawing in black pencil Support: paper

Primary Insc: Signed lower right in black ink 'Enos. Namatjira'. Not dated or titled.
Dimensions: image 25.0 h x 35.4 w cm sheet 27.6 h x 38.0 w cm
Acknowledgement: Gift of Thomas William and Pamela Joyce (Joy) Falconer 1987
Accession No: NGA 87.317
Image rights: © the estate of the artist licensed by Aboriginal Artists Agency Ltd
  • While in Emus and dog c.1955 (National Gallery of Australia, Canberra), by Albert Namatjira's eldest son, Enos, his simple black shapes delineating kangaroos, emus and a hunter may appear diagrammatic, they possess a refined sensitivity. They appear to float against highly wrought landscapes that are depicted in high-keyed colours. Although the son's debt to his father can clearly be seen in these paintings, his individual vision is striking.

    Text © National Gallery of Australia, Canberra

  • The motif of this painting—hunter and prey—was a popular subject for decorated artefacts made for sale at the Finke River Mission at Hermannsburg in the early 1930s and 1940s. Albert Namatjira and his eldest son, Enos, depicted animals in motion on mulga wood boomerangs and plaques and in sketches and paintings during the early to mid 1930s, however it was Enos who was to perfect the theme throughout a career that spanned three decades. He utilised the device of the silhouette and Emus and dog c 1955 is a masterly example. It is hard to believe that the dog will loosen its grip, or the emu recover from its tumble to join its partner. Simple black shapes possess a refined sensitivity.

    Enos has honed his graphic skills and his acute observation of the behaviour of animals and of country at specific moments in time: in this case the fading light that marks the coming of night. The animals appear to float against a highly wrought landscape where mountain ranges and valleys recede in infinite subtleties of tonal gradations. High-keyed colour contrasts define the tips of the central peaks that still reflect the mark of the setting sun. Enos places us in the midst of a drama of life and death, which is played out in the middle ground, a semi-lit arena, soon to be expunged by the shadows cast by the mountain behind us.

    Alison French

    Text © National Gallery of Australia, Canberra 2010
    From: Franchesca Cubillo and Wally Caruana (eds) Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Art: collection highlights National Gallery of Australia, Canberra, 2010