We acknowledge the Gadigal of the Eora Nation, the traditional custodians of the Country on which the Art Gallery of NSW stands.





Tim Leura Tjapaltjarri


circa 1929 – 1984

Language group: Anmatyerr, Central Desert region

Artist profile

  • Details

    Place where the work was made
    Papunya Northern Territory Australia
    Cultural origin
    Papunya Tula Movement
    Media category
    Materials used
    synthetic polymer paint on canvas
    187.0 x 154.0 x 2.3 cm stretcher
    Signature & date

    Not signed. Not dated.

    Gift of the Art Gallery Society of New South Wales 1995
    North Building, ground level, Yiribana Gallery
    Accession number
    © Estate of Tim Leura Tjapaltjarri. Licensed by Aboriginal Artists Agency Ltd

    Reproduction requests

    Artist information
    Tim Leura Tjapaltjarri

    Artist profile

    Works in the collection


  • About

    Tim Leura Tjapaltjarri was born in Napperby Creek and grew up around Napperby Station, around 200 kilometres north west of Mparntwe (Alice Springs), in his traditional Anmatyerr country. After working at Narwietooma Station as a stockman, he moved to Papunya in the late 1950s with his wife Daisy Leura Nakamarra and their young family, when the construction programme for the new settlement began.

    Tjapaltjarri was already known in Central Australia as a brilliant craftsman in wood before the painting movement began in Papunya in 1971. He presented himself to schoolteacher Geoffrey Bardon and asked to do a painting. The two men became friends, and TjapaItjarri went on to play a leading role in the emerging Papunya painting enterprise. Bardon recalls Tjapaltjarri encouraging his younger brother, Clifford Possum Tjapaltjarri (their mothers were sisters), to join the 'painting mob'. They went on to collaborate on some of the landmark paintings of the era, most notably the 1976 work, 'Warlugulong'.

    In the mid-1970s, Tim Leura Tjapaltjarri served on the Aboriginal Arts Board of the Australia Council as a Papunya Tula representative.

    Bardon's book, 'Papunya Tula: Art of the Western Desert' contains a detailed map drawn by Tjapaltjarri. It shows his country and the sacred sites of the Rrpwamper (possum), Anek (yam), Rwang (fire), Lhwelk (blue-tongue lizard), Atwern (sun), Atay (moon) and Morning Star and other Tjukurrpa. Tjapaltjarri's paintings were often sombre in both colour and content, which some observers believe reflected the artist's profound sadness at the loss of the old ways of living. However, Dick Kimber, who knew Tjapaltjarri over a long period, contends that it was '... more a deep sense of family attachment, and strong recall of his father and grandfather and their association with the country'.

    The bold heraldic design of 'Kooralia', 1980, is in some ways atypical, but its subtle evocation of a moonbeam failing across the striped sands of the Napperby Creek bed exemplifies the artist's interest in atmospherics, particularly night effects.

    Despite a painting career cut short by his untimely death, the paintings of Tjapaltjarri remain a telling influence on the work of many Western Desert artists.

    Vivien Johnson in 'Tradition today: Indigenous art in Australia', Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney, 2004

    © Art Gallery of New South Wales

  • Places

    Where the work was made


  • Exhibition history

    Shown in 11 exhibitions

  • Bibliography

    Referenced in 14 publications

Other works by Tim Leura Tjapaltjarri