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An image of The hills behind Hermannsburg by Otto Pareroultja

Otto Pareroultja

(Australia 1914 – 12 Aug 1973)

Language group
Western Arrernte, Central Desert region
The hills behind Hermannsburg
Place of origin
HermannsburgNorthern TerritoryAustralia
circa 1954
Media category
Materials used
watercolour on paper

31.0 x 52.0 cm image; 51.0 x 70.0 cm frame

Signature & date
Signed lower c., watercolour "Otto Pareroultja". Not dated.
Purchased 1996
Accession number
© Estate of Otto Pareroultja. Licensed by Viscopy, Sydney
Not on display
Further information

Otto Pareroultja and his brothers Reuben and Edwin worked and painted at the Lutheran Hermannsburg Mission west of Mparntwe (Alice Springs). Initially influenced by their countryman, Albert Namatjira, and by Rex Battarbee, the Melbourne watercolourist who worked closely with the Hermannsburg artists, the Pareroultja brothers developed their own distinctive styles. In their paintings, the desert landscape is less representational than in Namatjira's work, and is animated by their use of vigorous, sinuous lines, dynamic areas of repeated patterning and strong colours massed together.

These elements are clearly evident in Pareroultja’s c1954 painting 'The hills behind Hermannsburg', which explores the common Hermannsburg school motif of a white ghost gum in front of a distant mountain range. The painting has a graphic quality, rendered in Pareroultja’s customary high-keyed colour contrasted with distinctive black line-work. His use of brilliant yellow highlights and unpainted areas of white paper add luminosity to the landscape, emphasising the clarity of central Australian light. This vibrant approach to painting has had a strong influence on Ivy Pareroultja, Edwin’s daughter, who is currently leading a revival of the Hermannsburg painting style.

Bibliography (3)

Alison French, One sun one moon: Aboriginal art in Australia, ‘‘We’re got to follow that old man’s tracks’: Engaging with the art of Albert Namatjira’, pg. 151-163, Sydney, 2007, 159 (colour illus.).

Hetti Perkins, Art + soul: a journey into the world of Aboriginal art, 'Bitter + sweet’, pg. 173-265, Carlton, 2010, 241 (colour illus.), 282.

Wayne Tunnicliff, Tradition today: Indigenous art in Australia, 'Otto Pareroultja', pg. 116, Sydney, 2004, 116, 117 (colour illus.).

Exhibition history (3)

One sun, one moon, Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney, 03 Jul 2007–02 Dec 2007

Country Culture Community (2008-09), Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney, 12 Nov 2008–19 Apr 2009

The hills beyond Hermannsburg, Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney, 22 Mar 2014–02 Jun 2014