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The National Portrait Gallery acknowledges the Traditional Custodians of Country throughout Australia and recognises the continuing connection to lands, waters and communities. We pay our respect to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultures and to Elders both past and present.

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander viewers are warned that this website contains images of deceased persons.

The New Arrivals at the Metropolitan Museum of Modern Art, 1941

Russell Drysdale

pen and pencil on paper

Sir Russell Drysdale AC (1912-1981), painter, developed eye trouble in 1929, and had to leave boarding school for the first of many eye treatments which left him fearful of total blindness. He went to art school in 1935. In 1938 he took his family to Europe, and studied art in London and Paris, sharing a studio there with Peter Purves Smith, with whom he had gone to school. Having returned to Australia, over the course of the 1940s he produced a series of melancholy, foreboding works - including The Rabbiters, West Wyalong, The Drover's Wife, Sofala and The Cricketers - which not only laid down the terms of reference for most subsequent depictions of the landscape, but came to be seen as key representations of the Australian spiritual condition. In 1962 Drysdale's son took his own life; Drysdale's wife, inconsolable, did the same in 1963. In 1964 Drysdale and his second wife, Maisie, a lifelong friend, built a house in the Bouddi National Park, not far from Tallow Beach. A period of stability followed, and Drysdale was able to produce a further body of significant work over the next fifteen years.

Collection: National Portrait Gallery
Bequest of Lady Maisie Drysdale 2001
© Estate of Lady Maisie Drysdale

Accession number: 2001.184

Currently not on display

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Artist and subject

Russell Drysdale (age 29 in 1941)

Peter Purves Smith (age 29 in 1941)

Subject professions

Visual arts and crafts

Donated by

The Estate of Lady Maisie Drysdale (2 portraits)

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The National Portrait Gallery acknowledges the Traditional Custodians of Country throughout Australia and recognises the continuing connection to lands, waters and communities. We pay our respect to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultures and to Elders both past and present.

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander viewers are warned that this website contains images of deceased persons.