Image copyright: © Australian War Memorial licensed copyright,

ID number ART28309.001
Title Four seated soldiers
Collection Art
Object type Drawing
  • Drysdale, Russell (Artist)
  • ' ... Publishing Co. / 34 Jameson St., Sydney / Box 3101P, GPO Sydney / Phones (Publisher)
  • - BW5178, BW5181 ' stamped on verso upper left (Publisher)
Places made
  • Australia
  • Australia: New South Wales, Sydney
Date made 1944
Medium pen and black ink on paper
Measurement sheet: 7.4 x 20.2 cm; image: 4.2 x 16.5 cm (irregular)


Illustration for the wartime publication 'The Australian Soldier - A Portrait'. Depicts a row of four seated soldiers on the ground with one reclining on his elbow.

In 1944 Russell Drysdale was commissioned to illustrate the wartime publication 'The Australian Soldier - A Portrait' by John Hetherington. Based on the experience of the Sixth Division of the Australian Imperial Forces, the book was an account of the soldiers' experience fighting against the Italians in Libya. This drawing relates to the following passage: "The excitement of the Victory of Bardia soon passed. The Australians moved onto Tobruk and sat themselves down in the sand. They chafed about it. They didn't like this sitting down in the sand. They wanted action. The preliminaries to battle were boring."


Drysdale seldom used any violent physical action to describe the experience of the Sixth Division. He instead drew moments of casual interaction between troops inspired by his experience of observing soldiers in Albury NSW. In 'Four seated soldiers' each soldier is depicted in isolation and scattered separately across the picture plane. It is only their loose grouping together that alludes to a sense of their communal existence, as comrades fighting a war together.
The portrayal of Australian troops in waiting became a common theme depicted by artists during the Second World War. It enabled artists to document the weariness and endurance of wartime experience between times of battle.