Image copyright: © Australian War Memorial,
Creative Commons License This image is licensed under CC BY-NC

ID number ART22931
Title On the Thailand Railway, 2
Collection Art
Object type Painting
Artist Abbott, Harold
Place made Australia
Date made 1946
Medium oil on canvas
Measurement overall: 96 x 112 cm


A group of three emaciated naked prisoners are shown walking away from the river whilst working on the Burma Thailand Railway. Trestles and support bridgeworks are visible in the background. The Burma-Thailand railway was constructed by the Japanese using prisoner of war (POW) labour over the period September 1942 to October 1943.

This work suggests the deposition of Christ, as the nude, emaciated prisoner of war virtually hangs from the shoulders of two others. The dominant bright orange tones of this work strongly convey the agonizing pain, deteriorating health and moral outrage experienced by those who were forced to labour under intolerable conditions. The diagonal struts under the bridge effectively unify and balance the composition, whilst the eerie reflections in the water and the toiling, gaunt men in the middle distance accentuate the inherent sense of uncertainty and foreboding.


This work also forms part of a triptych titled 'A triptych of suffering' together with the works 'On the Thailand Railway, 1' (ART22930) and 'Defeat, Singapore' (ART22927)