Tommy Watson Biography
Yannima Tommy Watson was a Senior Pitjantjatjara law man, born around 1935 at Anumarapiti, 75 kilometres west of Wingellina in Western Australia.
When he was a young man, Tommy spent some time at Ernabella Mission, where he was called Tommy Yannima Pikarli Watson. He later worked as a stockman on cattle stations.
While working at Papunya, he met Geoffrey Bardon and witnessed the early Papunya art scene.
He painted his first work for Irrunytju Arts, the Arts Centre at Wingellina, in 2001. His Alice Springs debut was at the 2002 Desert Mob show.
The sale of his painting, "Kukutjara" (2003), at Cromwell’s auction house for $36,300, created a sensation in the art world and demand soon outstripped supply.
In 2005, Tommy was commissioned along with Ningura Napurrula, Lena Nyadbi, Michael Riley, Judy Watson, John Mawurndjul, Paddy Bedford and Gulumbu Yunupingu to produce artwork to be permanently installed in the Musee du Quai Branly in Paris, France, which officially opened in 2006.
Another painting, "Waltitjatta" (2006), later sold for $240,000 at auction in 2007.
His art has been compared by critics to Kandinsky, Mondrian, and Mark Rothko. John MacDonald wrote in the Sydney Morning Herald that Watson,"Is a master of invention and arguably the outstanding painter of the Western Desert", then he compared Tommy’s use of colour to the work of Matisse.
Today he is recognised as one of Australia's most renowned Aboriginal artists. Sadly he passed away in November, 2017.
National Gallery of Australia, Canberra
National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne
Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney
Art Gallery of Western Australia, Perth
Art Gallery of South Australia, Adelaide
Museum & Art Gallery of the Northern Territory
Musee du Quai Branly, Paris
2008 25th Telstra National Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander Art Award Darwin
2003 20th Telstra National Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander Art Award Darwin
2002 19th Telstra National Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander Art Award Darwin
2002 Wati Tjilpiku Tjukurpa, Aboriginal and Pacific Gallery, Sydney
2002 Desert Mob, Araluen, Alice Springs. National Gallery of Victoria. Australian National Gallery.