Sir Russell Drysdale Collection

Our collection of works by regional artist Sir Russel Drysdale features evocative depictions of Albury and surrounding areas during World War II.

Poor eyesight excluded Drysdale from active war service; instead he produced a significant body of work focusing on wartime army life in Australia. Those in the Albury Regional Art Gallery collection include Albury Platform (1943) and Convoy on Road near Albury (1942).

In 1944 Drysdale was commissioned by the Sydney Morning Herald to record the terrible drought that was afflicting New South Wales. This assignment produced many of his most notable works.

One of them was The Dead Bullock (1945), a stark image of a rotting carcass that prefigured Sidney Nolan's 'Carcass' paintings of the early 1950s and alluded to the undulating curves of Henry Moore's reclining figures. The work was first exhibited in Drysdale's solo exhibition at Macquarie Galleries in 1945, where it did not sell. Contemporary accounts indicate that the subject matter made the work unappealing. In 1950 Drysdale sold the painting to Justice John Flood Nagle, a lifelong friend and a trustee of the Art Gallery of New South Wales.

In 1981 Albury Regional Art Gallery began to build a collection around Drysdale as a regional artist with a national reputation. Its first Drysdale acquisitions were Soldiers on Albury Station (c.1940), Study Woolpresser (1939) and Study for Dean Street (1939), which was a gift from eminent Melbourne art dealer Joseph Brown. In 1985 the gallery added five new works to the Drysdale Collection – two with funds from a public appeal, two donated by the Drysdale family and one donated through the Friends of the Albury Art Gallery.

Figures in a Landscape (1964) was donated to the collection after Drysdale's death. Produced during a time of great emotion following the deaths of his son in 1962 and his wife in 1963, it is a black, white and grey lithograph of an empty landscape with a distant hill and two figures occupying an otherwise barren place.

Albury Regional Art Gallery now holds over 40 artworks by Drysdale, along with memorabilia including ephemera, books and objects, among them Drysdale's portable easel. The collection continues to grow through purchases, gifts, bequests and loans.

Drawing on Drysdale is part of AlburyCity's touring exhibitions.

See more images of the Collection at the MAMA Flickr page.