Tuesday 7 February 2012 by Sally Cunningham. 3 comments

Soldier,  drawn in Albury, NSW, 1942, oil on hardboard Soldier, drawn in Albury, NSW, 1942, oil on hardboard
To mark the centenary of the birth of one of Australia’s most celebrated artists, a new exhibition Russell Drysdale at war is being held at the Australian War Memorial. Exhibiting a collection of 15 of his wartime artworks, it presents a haunting account of the Australian home front during the Second World War.

Drysdale was not an official war artist, yet felt compelled to document his experience to provide future generations with a visual account of the period. His imagery was inspired by a period he spent living in Albury, New South Wales and explores the loneliness and isolation of war and the displacement experienced by those involved.  

Study for “Exercise near Hume Camp, NSW”, drawn in Albury, NSW, 1942, pen, brush and ink, and watercolour on paper Study for “Exercise near Hume Camp, NSW”, drawn in Albury, NSW, 1942, pen, brush and ink, and watercolour on paper

Experimenting with new techniques and mediums, his wartime imagery marks an important prelude to his much loved imagery of the Australian outback. In works such as Study of ‘Exercise new Hume Camp NSW’ the agitated application of ink and coloured washes show an important shift from the formalist approach he had learnt at art school.  It creates a scene replete with a sense of restlessness and eerie tension. 

The exhibition includes iconic works such as the painting Soldier as well as a collection of less-known illustrations that Drysdale was commissioned to produce for the wartime publications The Australian Soldier by John Hetherington and Soldier Superb by Allan DawesIt will be on display until February 2013.


Vincent de Gouw

As this year is also the centenary of Ivor Hele's birth is the war memorial (or anyone, really) putting together an exhibition of his work? Not only was he one of the AWMs most represented war artists and multiple Archibald winner, more than all this, he was possibly Australia's best draftsman. I'd love to see an exhibition of his drawings alone.


[...] The Australian War Memorial is paying tribute to one of Australia’s leading modernist painters, Sir Russell Drysdale, in a small exhibition, Russell Drysdale at War. [...]


Thanks for your comment Vincent. You’re right, Ivor Hele is indeed a brilliant draughtsman and artist who has made a significant contribution to Australian art. Unfortunately we are not putting on an exhibition this year, however if you are interested in his drawings you should seek out our exhibition catalogue from our previous show titled Ivor Hele: the Heroic Figure curated by Head of Art, Lola Wilkins. A significant amount of his work is also on permanent display in our galleries which includes both his paintings and works on paper.