Harold Thomas


Born: c. 1947

Language Group: Luritja/Wombai

Country: Western Desert/Alice Springs

Medium: Watercolour, Oil on Arches Paper, Acrylic on Canvas

Subjects: Landscapes

Harold Thomas is a classically trained indigenous artist who has lived in the Top End of Australia for more than 35 years. His paintings resonate with surreal, mystical light and his paint application is vigorous and masterful, techniques learnt through sound tuition in the 1960's.

Harold was born in Alice Springs in 1947 into a large family of 13 children. His mother is a Luritja woman while his dad was Wombai man.  At a young age he was taken from his family and placed at St John's Hostel, then at the age of seven he was sent to South Australia's St Frances House, an Anglican institution for Aboriginal boys.  By the age of eleven he was fostered to a white family.  At school he excelled in sports and started to take a strong interest in painting. After high school he won a scholarship to study at the South Australian School of Art and later studied social anthropology at the University of Adelaide.

During his time at university, Harold became actively involved in the Aboriginal Civil Rights movement and designed what became the Aboriginal Flag in 1971. The flag was chosen as the official flag for the Aboriginal Tent Embassy and was first flown there in 1972. In 1995, the Australian Government proclaimed the flag as an official 'Flag of Australia'. It wasn't until 1997 that Harold Thomas was recognised as the author of the artistic work under the Copyright Act 1968. Today, the flag remains a strong and unifying symbol for Aboriginal rights and justice.

Often working in isolated conditions in the bush, Thomas distinguishes his paintings with the light and unearthly colours of the North. His classical techniques are connected to a deep love for the country and its unique wildlife. Without the intrusion of man-made objects, his compositions have a purity of form and a timeless quality. Harold Thomas is without doubt one of the most accomplished contemporary artists of his kind.


Art Gallery of Western Australia, Perth

Flinders University Art Museum, Adelaide

Museum and Art Gallery of the Northern Territory, Darwin

Queensland Art Gallery, Brisbane


1984 Third Prize, Inaugural National Aboriginal Art Award, Northern Territory Museum of Arts and Sciences, Darwin
1992 Portraits of Parliamentarians, Darwin NT
2016 WINNER, 33rd, Telstra National Aboriginal & Torres Strait Art Award NT Museum of Arts and Sciences, Darwin



1977 Arnhemland Aboriginal Art Gallery, Darwin, NT
1978 Heritage Aboriginal Art Gallery, Darwin, NT
1985 Esplanade Gallery, Darwin, NT
1986 The Parap Gallery, Darwin, NT
1986 Raintree Gallery, Darwin, NT
1987 Birukmarri Gallery, Fremantle, WA
1987 Esplanade Gallery, Darwin, NT
1988 The Showcase Gallery, Darwin, NT
1988 Caz Gallery, Los Angeles, USA
1989 Masterworks Exhibition, Raintree Gallery, Darwin, NT
1984 The First National Aboriginal Art Award Exhibition, Museum and Art Gallery of NT, Darwin, NT
1984 'National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Art Award Exhibition', Museum and Art Gallery of the Northern Territory, Darwin, NT
1985 The Second National Aboriginal Art Award Exhibition, Museum and Art Gallery of the NT, Darwin, NT
1990 Balance 1990: views, visions, influences, QAG, Brisbane, QLD
1993 The Tenth National Aboriginal Art Award Exhibition, Museum and Art Gallery of the NT, Darwin, NT
2009 'Lotus Lilies', Central Art, Alice Springs, NT