Biography

Birth date: 07 February 1912
Birth place: United Kingdom: England, Sussex, Bognor Regis
Death date: 29 June 1981
Death place: Australia: New South Wales, Sydney
Conflict: Second World War, 1939-1945

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).

Rolls and Awards

Collection Items

Art

Four seated soldiers

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...

ART28309.001

Soldiers and children in Greece

Illustration for the wartime publication 'The Australian Soldier - A Portrait'. Depicts two Australian soldiers wearing slouch hats talking to three Greek children. In 1944 Russell Drysdale was commissioned to illustrate the wartime publication 'The Australian Soldier - A Portrait' by John...

ART28309.002

Not titled [Study of three seated soldiers]

Illustration for the wartime publication 'The Australian Soldier - A Portrait'. Depicts three seated soldiers from behind, looking out towards the horizon. In 1944 Russell Drysdale was commissioned to illustrate the wartime publication 'The Australian Soldier - A Portrait' by John Hetherington....

ART28309.003

Not titled [Study of seated soldier]

Illustration for the wartime publication 'The Australian Soldier - A Portrait'. Depicts rear view of seated soldier wearing a steel helmet. In 1944 Russell Drysdale was commissioned to illustrate the wartime publication 'The Australian Soldier - A Portrait' by John Hetherington. Based on the...

ART28309.004

Australian and Greek soldier

Illustration for the wartime publication 'The Australian Soldier - A Portrait'. Depicts two Allied soldiers leaning in toward one another. The Australian soldier is smoking and is offering a cigarette to the Greek soldier. In 1944 Russell Drysdale was commissioned to illustrate the wartime...

ART28309.005

Convoy

Illustration for the wartime publication 'The Australian Soldier - A Portrait'. Depicts of a convoy of military trucks travelling along a road. In 1944 Russell Drysdale was commissioned to illustrate the wartime publication 'The Australian Soldier - A Portrait' by John Hetherington. Drysdale...

ART28309.009

Not titled [Surgical operation]

Study for an illustration in the publication "Soldier Superb-The Australian fights in New Guinea", by Allan Dawes, 1944.

ART28309.012

Not titled [Standing soldier]

Depicts an Australian soldier wearing a slouch hat pivoting towards his right shoulder. 'Not titled [Standing soldier]' was one of a series of drawings Drysdale produced for the publication 'The Australian Soldier - A Portrait' by John Hetherington in 1943. Drysdale's portrait of the soldier is...

ART28309.014

Not titled [Artillery men]

Illustration for 'The Australian Soldier: A Portrait' by John Hetherington. Depicts three Australian artillery men, one of them operating a field gun.

ART93285

Not titled [Soldier reading]

Depicts a portrait of an unidentified soldier, seated on the ground, reading a letter. The soldier is drawn wearing a slouch hat and surrounded by his personal belongings. This drawing was made for the publication 'Soldier Superb: The Australian Fights in New Guinea' by Allan Dawes, 1943. The...

ART93286

Soldier

Depicts a seated portrait of an Australian soldier in uniform. Albury train station became a notable source of inspiration for Drysdale. As the intersection where the railway lines changed gauge between Victoria and New South Wales, it became an important stopover for Australian servicemen. Troops...

ART92623

Albury railway station

Depicts a group of soldiers wearing great-coats outside a darkened 'RTO' sign at the Albury railway station. A dark railway carriage forms the left hand side of the work. In wartime Australia the railways moved troops to all parts of the country. In those days before the railway gauge's were...

ART28078

Soldiers, Albury Station

Depicts four Australian soldiers seated in a row in coats and slouch hats. Three are sitting with their hands in pockets, on a bench, while the forth is perched on the end fast asleep. Albury train station became a notable source of inspiration for Drysdale. As the intersection where the railway...

ART93995

Study for 'Exercise near Hume Camp NSW'

Study for the illustration 'Exercise near Hume Camp NSW'. Depicts a truck with several men standing/sitting nearby, at Hume Camp, Albury, New South Wales. During the war Russell Drysdale moved to Albury, NSW for a period of six months in 1942. Surrounded by several military depots, hospitals...

ART28308

Not titled [Four soldiers]; [Soldier taking aim]

Study of four soldiers, two outer standing and the others seated. On verso, a soldier is depicted taking aim through high bushes.

ART28309.013

Study of a Greek Soldier

Illustration for the wartime publication 'The Australian Soldier - A Portrait'. Depicts a fully uniformed Greek soldier standing with his hands in his pockets. 'Study of a Greek Soldier' captures a soldier in side profile gazing off into the distance. The loose link work and use of shadow...

ART28309.007

Three seated soldiers

Depicts three Australian soldiers resting. The central figure is seated on a raised elevation while the other two flank him on either side. 'Three seated soldiers' visually recreates the experience of a group of Australian and Greek soldiers who missed the last fleet of ships evacuating people...

ART28309.006

Study for `Airport at night' (Rose Bay)

Study for the later work on paper "Airport at night" in Rose Bay, New South Wales. Depicts a nighttime scene of the people at work at an airport. Flood lights pours out of the hangar illuminating the aircrafts and figures. During the war, Rose Bay Flying Boat Base was used as an international...

ART28307

Not titled [Study of a soldier, three quarter figure]

Illustration for the wartime publication 'The Australian Soldier - A Portrait'. Portrait of the three-quarter figure of a soldier with his hands in his pockets. 'Not titled [Study of a soldier, three quarter figure]' captures the emotional toll the war had on the outlook of the soldiers. Drawn...

ART28309.008

Japanese dead

Illustration for the wartime publication 'Soldier superb: the Australian fights in New Guinea'. Depicts the remains of human skeletons. On verso; sketch of a soldier climbing a ladder. First published in Alan Dawes's 1943, Japanese dead is one of Drysdale's few illustrations to focus on the human...

ART28309.010

Not titled [Soldiers lying with guns]

Illustration for publication "Soldier Superb- the Australian fights in New Guinea". Depicts a group of soldiers lying at the edge of a hill with their guns pointing down a range. First published in the wartime publication "Soldier Superb- the Australian fights in New Guinea" by Allan Dawes, 'Not...

ART28309.011

Timeline

Date of birth 1912-02-07
Date of death 1981-06-29