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.
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 Dawes. It will be on display until February 2013.