Nancy Petyarre

Nancy Petyarre

Nancy Kunoth Petyarre (born sometime between 1934 and 1939 — died August 2009) was an Australian Aboriginal artist who lived in Utopia, 170 miles north east of Alice Springs. The second eldest of the famous and prolific 'seven famous Petyarre sisters' of Utopia (Ada Bird, Myrtle Petyarre, Violet Petyarre, Jean Petyarre and most notably Kathleen Petyarre and Gloria Petyarre), she was not herself a prolific artist.[1]

Nancy Kunoth Petyarre was best-known for her fine dot designs representing the skin on the back of Arnkerrthe, the Mountain Devil Lizard. She is buried next to Emily Kame Kngwarreye in a little known spot along the Sandover Highway.[2]

Petyarre was born at Soakage Bore, near Waite River, about 50 kilometres north-east of Alice Springs, sometime between 1934 and 1939 (reports conflict, and records do not exist). She grew up with four brothers, speaking the Anmatyerre language, in the area known as Utopia, where her parents, Topsey Pwerle and Mick Kngwarreye had lived traditional lives in the desert.[3]

It was not until she was in her forties, in the 1980s, that Nancy started painting. She worked first on batik and later on canvas. She also made carvings which have featured in many exhibitions. Her most famous works are "Mountain Devil Dreaming" and "Body Paint". Her first exhibition came when she was believed to be around 50 years old, at Sydney's S. H. Ervin Gallery as part of a group show in 1989.[1]

Her work is represented in the collections of:

  • Museum & Art Galleries of the Northern Territory, Darwin, Australia
  • The National Gallery of Australia
  • The Art Gallery of New South Wales
  • The Robert Holmes à Court Collection, Western Australia in a book entitled Utopia – A Picture Story, 88 Silks batiks, 1990, Anne Brody
  • The National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne, Australia.


  • 1989, Utopia Women’s Paintings, the First Works On Canvas, A Summer Project, 1988–89, S. H. Ervin Gallery, Sydney
  • 1989, Aboriginal Art, The Continuing Tradition, National Gallery of Australia, Canberra
  • 1990, Utopia, A Picture Story, an exhibition of 88 works on silk from the Holmes a Court Collection by Utopia artists which toured Éire and Scotland
  • 1992, Central Australian Aboriginal Art and Craft Exhibition, Araluen Centre, Alice Springs
  • 1993, Central Australian Aboriginal Art and Craft Exhibition, Araluen Centre, Alice Springs
  • 1994, Central Australian Aboriginal Arts and Craft Exhibition, Araluen Centre, Alice Springs
  • 1994, Yapakurlangu Wirrkardu, Bachelor College, Tennant Creek, NT
  • 1999, June–August, “Caring for Country – Artists of Utopia”, Tandanya, S.A
  • 2001, Mountain Devil Lizard – Arnkerrthe, Myrtle Petyarre, Nancy Petyarre and Violet Petyarre, July Exhibition: Mbantua Gallery, Alice Springs
  • 2001, August, Seven Sisters Petyarre: Brisbane City Gallery, Brisbane
  • 2002, August, Redback Art Utopia Women
  • 2002, September–October, Mbantua Gallery USA exhibitions: Art and Soul Gallery, Nashville, TN; 'The Cove Gallery', Portland, OR; Urban Wine Works, Portland, OR; Mary's Woods, Portland, OR
  • 2003, June, Seven Sisters, Chrissie Cotter Gallery, Sydney
  • 2003, Sept-Oct, Mbantua Gallery USA exhibitions: New City Merchants, Knoxville, TN; Art and Soul Gallery, Nashville, TN; 'The Cove Gallery' Portland, OR; Mary's Woods, Portland, OR
  • 2003, October, Contemporary Aboriginal Art Event, Umpqua Bank in conjunction with Mbantua Gallery, Portland, Oregon USA
  • 2003, October, Art from the Dreamtime, Portland Art Museum, Portland OR USA
  • 2004, Aug-Sep, Mbantua Gallery USA exhibition; Portland, Nashville, Knoxville and Hartford
  • 2005, May–June, Small Wonders’ (A collection of 1’x1’ and 1’x1½’ paintings), Mbantua Gallery, Alice Springs, N.T
  • 2004-2006 Evolution of Utopia, Mbantua Gallery Cultural Museum, Alice Springs


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