Sunday, 16 May 2010


“Australia is properly speaking an island, but it is so much larger than every other island on the face of the globe, that it is classed as a continent in order to convey to the mind a just idea of its magnitude.” – Charles Sturt

For Art Sunday today, an Australian artist, Russell Drysdale (1912 - 1981). He was born in England in 1912, and arrived in Australia in 1923. Russell Drysdale is regarded as a pioneer of Australian modern regional painting. Breaking radically with the Heidelberg School’s romanticised and impressionistic view of rural Australia and bourgeois scenes styled on the European traditions, Drysdale used the originality of his artistic style and vision to effectively shape an alternative national identity based on his own honest vision of the harsh nature and distinctiveness of life within the Australian inland.

When Drysdale died in 1981 he was regarded as a national hero, his art was widely known and greatly admired. His images of rural country towns and outback landscapes, often with their inhabitants, were instrumental in defining a national identity at a time of tremendous social change in Australian history. For audiences in Australia and abroad, Drysdale's paintings reflected the essence of Australia and its people. Drysdale's themes, including identity, isolation, the land and its people, multiculturalism and indigenous Australians, are explored in his art.

"The Cricketers" (1948) is perhaps Drysdale’s most famous painting, and one of the most frequently reproduced images in twentieth-century Australian art. The subject of three figures set amid the stark walls of buildings in a deserted town, bathed in unnatural light, is a haunting and extremely original interpretation of a familiar sporting theme.

The painting was a loose commission from the English publisher, Walter Hutchinson. Hutchinson's collection of approximately three thousand paintings opened to the public in February 1949 at Hutchinson House, London, and was known as the National Collection of British Sports and Pastimes. Hutchinson wanted a painting of an Australian cricket match and asked his Melbourne office to arrange a commission from one of Australia's best-known artists. The request was referred to Leonard Voss Smith, a noted collector and dealer who worked for Hutchinson. Voss Smith mentioned the matter to Drysdale, who at the time was occupied with subjects of Hill End.

Drysdale's painting of country boys having an informal game of cricket against a building at Hill End was not what Walter Hutchinson was expecting, and he was shocked when the painting arrived in London. He cabled Melbourne and fired Voss Smith. The next day, having ascertained that Drysdale was indeed a distinguished Australian artist, Hutchinson cabled to reinstate him…


  1. May I commend to lovers of Australian painting, the Geelong Art Gallery exhibit of works by Robert Dowling who painted huge pictures of beautiful Western Victorian indigenous people 1856-1888.
    It is on till the end of June and well worth the drive to Geelong. I have trawled for online images and there are only a couple, and they are not the best ones.

    Our pal at Melbourne's After Grog Blog loves that Drysdale.

  2. This looks very foreboding Nic. It makes me uneasy looking at it. But it's also strangely beautiful!!!