ESSAY: The Hermannsburg School of Painting
When Albert Namatjira went out on his extended bush trips to paint, he was often accompanied by his sons, Oscar, Enos, Ewald and Keith, together with the Pareroultja brothers: Otto, Edwin and Reuben. The latter belonged to the same subsection group or 'skin' as Namatjira and he considered them to be his brothers. So it was through the bonds of kinship and mutual obligation that Namatjira tutored his relatives in the art of watercolour painting.
Before long, there were many more artists following in Namatjira's footsteps, including Benjamin Landara, Henoch and Herbert Raberaba, Richard Moketarinja, Nelson Pannka, Lindberg Inkamala, Walter and Joshua Ebataringa and Walter's wife Cordula, who was the first woman in the collective to take up landscape painting.
Per tradition, Namatjira's sons carried on painting in the style of their father, which was strongly influenced by the classical tradition of European landscape painting. Namatjira's other followers began to develop their own personalized interpretation of the landscape. This was a more schematised style of landscape painting in which certain elements — such as gum tree, rocks, scrubland and the distant ranges — were repeated in a set number of ways to illustrate a particular site. This formalisation of the landscape is similar to the way in which ritual designs are composed of simple elements, such as circles, lines and arcs. So what was conformity and repetition to the European eye was in fact a means of rendering the landscape and its totemic locations in a more symbolic way.
This fusion of a European art form with a traditional Aboriginal artistic sensibility has made the Hermannsburg or Aranda School a significant transitional art movement to emerge in Aboriginal Australia. The identification of the Aranda with what is called the Hermannsburg School of painting remains strong and is carried on by many of Namatjira's descendants living today at Hermannsburg and in the Alice Springs vicinity.