Published: Thu 2 Feb 2012


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, which will open on 7 February 2012, the centenary of his birth.


Drysdale is best known for his original interpretations of Australia’s outback landscape and its people of the late twentieth century, a period of great social change. During the Second World War he also produced a significant collection of works exploring the effectsof war and the loneliness and displacement felt by many Australians based in rural communities.


“Drysdale’s imagery from this period presents a bleak commentary on the wartime experience of Australia’s small-town communities,” said Sally Cunningham, Assistant Curator of Art, Australian War Memorial. “These works embody a sense of foreboding unseen in his other work and reveal feelings of isolation and uncertainty experienced by Australians moving around the home front.”


At the outbreak of the Second World War, Drysdale was keen to become involved in the war effort. He attempted to enlist a number of times, but was rejected because of his poor eyesight. In 1942 he moved to Albury, New South Wales. Coincidentally, the move led to the beginning of an influential friendship with fellow artist Donald Friend.


Living in Albury, Drysdale was exposed to a fresh source of subject matter. The town was an important stopover for Australian servicemen during the period and living there he was surrounded by the several military depots, hospitals, and training facilities.  He observed firsthand the activities of Australian servicemen and began to document their experiences. 


“This small exhibition is a unique opportunity for people to view a collection of unseen works by Drysdale that reveal the grim face of a nation at war,” said Cunningham.


One of the works on display will be the iconic painting Solider, which captures the loneliness and uncertainly of a tired soldier waiting at Albury Station. Russell Drysdale at warfeatures more than 15 works, including a diverse range of works on paper produced in Albury during 1942. It will be on display at the Memorial until early 2013.


Russell Drysdale at war

Opening 7 February 2012

Second World War Galleries, Australian War Memorial

10 am – 5 pm

Free entry




Tom Vasey           (02) 6243 4575     0409 600 038