Russell Drysdale's paintings of Aboriginal people from Cape York Peninsula began as a small series in 1952–53. Prior to this, European artists had often depicted Indigenous Australians as a 'dying race', with ethnographic scrutiny or satirically, reflecting prevalent unquestioned racist attitudes of the time.
From this series, 'Group of Aborigines' is a compassionate portrait, regarded as one of Drysdale's masterpieces. Using an extremely pared back image of the Australian landscape as the backdrop, Drysdale depicted this group with the sense of quiet dignity typical of his outback figure subjects.
oil on canvas
50.8 x 61.0 cm stretcher; 64.5 x 74.3 x 7.7 cm frame
Signature & date
Signed l.r. corner, red oil "Russell Drysdale". Signed upper c. verso, brown oil ".../ RUSSELL DRYSDALE/ ...". Not dated.
Purchased 2003 to commemorate the 20th Anniversary of the Art Gallery of New South Wales Foundation, with assistance from Foundation supporters, including the following major donors: Peter Weiss AM & Doris Weiss John & Michelle Landerer The Yeldham family The Dusseldorp family, in memory of Anna Dusseldorp who owned the painting from 1962-2002 John & Inge Grant Maurice & Christina Green Dr & Mrs Hugh Taylor John & Anne Leece Geoff & Vicki Ainsworth Margarete Ainsworth Paul & Valeria Ainsworth Mark & Lindy Ainsworth John & Gail Marshall Andrew & Michele Michael Rowena Danziger & Ken Coles AM Isaac & Susan Wakil Mark & Louise Nelson Stephen & Nanette Ainsworth David Gonski AO & Dr Orli Wargon Len Ainsworth Russell & Lucinda Aboud, in memory of Hugh Buchanan May Dr Malcolm Coppleson AO & Patricia Coppleson John L Sharpe Lady (Vincent) Fairfax OBE Elizabeth Ramsden Jim & Janette Bain Bret Walker SC Neville H Grace Mr & Mrs HT Waller Leslie & Ginny Green Michael Gleeson-White
© Russell Drysdale Estate
Where the work was made
Shown in 2 exhibitions
Russell Drysdale (1953), Macquarie Galleries, Sydney, 18 Nov 1953–04 Dec 1953
Russell Drysdale: a retrospective exhibition of paintings from 1937 to 1960, Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney, 05 Oct 1960–06 Nov 1960
Referenced in 16 publications
Daniel Thomas and Paul Haefliger, Russell Drysdale; a retrospective exhibition of paintings from 1937 to 1960, Sydney, 1960, 60. cat.no. 85; titled 'Group of Aborigines'; collection: Chris Vandyke
Lou Klepac, The life and work of Russell Drysdale, Kensington, 1983, 312 (colour illus.). plate no. 132
Christie's, Australia Pty. Ltd., Christie's Australia. Australian, International and Contemporary Painting. Melbourne 6&7 May 2003, South Yarra, 2003, inside front cover (colour illus., detail), 64, 65 (colour illus.). The estate of the Late Mrs Joanne C. Dusseldorp, Sydney; lot no. 44
Geoff Maslen., Age, 'Drysdale dreaming', Melbourne, 29 Apr 2003.
Steve Meacham., The Sydney Morning Herald, 'Three quiet midwives of Australian painting', Sydney, 01 May 2003, (colour illus.).
Michael Stutchbury (Editor), The Australian, '$750k for a Drysdale', pg. 8, Sydney, 03 May 2003, 8.
Richard Brewster, Age, 'Elusive works to be exposed', pg. 8, Melbourne, 03 May 2003, 8.
Geoff Maslen., Age, 'Drysdale repays investor with $1 million profit', Melbourne, 06 May 2003.
Joel Gibson, The Sydney Morning Herald, 'Sold', pg. 15, Sydney, 07 May 2003, 15.
Terry Ingram, The Australian financial review, 'Flying colours. Fine art investors outrun the stockmarket', pg. 65, Sydney, 08 May 2003, 65.
Jill Sykes (Editor), Look, Sydney, Jul 2003, 3 (colour illus.). Christie's advertisement for May 2003 Auction
Donna Brett, Look, 'A silver anniversary: The AGNSW Foundation celebrates', pg. 14, Sydney, Nov 2008, 14 (colour illus.).
Sally Morrison, After fire: a biography of Clifton Hugh, 'The muse is not a play thing: 1956-July 1958', pg. 131-150, Melbourne, 2009, 134 (illus.).
Jackie de Diana, Look, 'Art and Australia: more views of European preludes and parallels', pg. 16-17, Sydney, Nov 2010, 13 (colour illus.).
Barry Pearce, Look, 'Drysdale centenary: artist with a singular potency', pg. 16-17, Sydney, Dec 2012-Jan 2013, 17 (colour illus.).
John Saxby, Look, 'A window opens on new stories about building the collection', pg. 26-28, Sydney, May 2015, 28.