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Otto Pareroultja

The Hills Behind Hermannsberg - 1954

watercolour on paper
28 x 72 cm
Price Realised: $3,660.00

MP #618


Purchased from the artist, by the District Officer, Hermannsburg Mission circa 1955.
Private Collection, Tas
Thence by descent

Re-mounted and framed by Jarmans the Picture Framers, Hawthorn Vic in 2015 using materials employed for the Hermannsburg watercolours in the collection of the NGA

28 x 72 cm
55.5 x 98.5 cm (frame)

Otto Pareroultja was just 12 years younger than Albert Namatjira and the oldest of three brothers that Rex Battarbee referred to as the ‘breakaway group’ amongst the generation that followed. When he first began painting in 1947, there were those who inferred that his works resonated with those of European modernists such as Vincent van Gogh and Paul Gauguin, in that his landscapes were distinguished by brilliant colour, dense patterning and ‘rhythmic pulsation’ .

Though Pareroultja never departed from the use of watercolour over the course of his artistic career, his style and subject matter became markedly ‘more Aboriginal’, and, with this gradual transition, much stronger. The sense of movement inherent in his paintings is reminiscent of Dreaming narratives. Ted Strehlow and Rex Battarbee both pointed out the connections between the swirling parallel lines and concentric circles of Otto’s paintings and the designs found on the sacred ‘tjuringa’ stones associated with men’s ceremonial life. It is this ‘traditional resonance’ in his painting that distinguishes Pareroultja from other artists of the Hermannsburg School.

Pareroultja’s desert landscapes exhibit a distinct dynamic originality. The best of these were painted late in a career that spanned twenty years, ending in 1967 even though he lived until the early 1990s. His paintings predominantly depict sacred sites - although at the time of Pareroultja’s painting they may not have been recognised as such outside of their community context. Pareroultja was not overly concerned with correct perspective in his landscape. His forte was not artistic realism. While we have no indication that he aimed for this, the merit of a painting by Otto Pareroultja lies in the visual articulation of certain Indigenous elements, rendered through European technique.