Russell Drysdale
1912-1981

ART28078 Russell Drysdale
Albury railway station AWM ART28078

Russell Drysdale was born of Australian parents in Bognor Regis, England, in 1912, arriving in Australia in 1923. He became interested in post-impressionist painting while on a visit to England in 1932. From 1935 to 1938, he studied with Arnold Shore and George Bell in Melbourne. In 1938-39, he attended the Grosvenor School in London and the Grande Chaumiere, Paris. Exempted from active service in the Second World War because of defective eyesight, he was offered an appointment as an official war artist in 1944 to cover homefront activities. Drysdale declined because the war was almost over, but he continued to record scenes of wartime Australia and showed special interest in events such as troop movements at stations and airports.

Albury railway station (ART28078) is one of a number of works on this subject which Drysdale painted while living in Albury. The Victorian and New South Wales railway lines changed gauge at Albury: during the war, soldiers could frequently be encountered waiting on the platform to change trains. Drysdale's men are huddled together in a group - without individual facial characteristics or identities - at a bleak, impersonal station. The formal composition contrasts with the agitated mood expressed by the free use of black with stridently coloured washes; the combined effect is restlessness and eerie tension.

The Memorial holds twenty works by Drysdale, sixteen of them donated by the artist, including a series of twelve pen and ink drawings. The latter series encapsulates the image of the waiting, resting soldier. Included in the donated works is a dramatic gouache study of an airport scene Study for "Airport at night" (Rose Bay) (ART28307)
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