'Sofala' is regarded as one of Russell Drysdale's finest paintings, representing the artist at the height of his powers. With its compelling evocation of atmosphere and ambience, the painting transcends literal description of a particular place to become an expression of the quintessential qualities of an inland Australian country town.
Drysdale first visited this former gold-mining settlement in August 1947 with fellow artist Donald Friend. He made a sketch and took photographs but, as was customary for him, completed the painting in his studio on returning to Sydney.
In 'Sofala', Drysdale pares down the reality of the subject to its barest essentials, achieving an intensified synthesis of visual and emotional impact. His modernist focus on the construction of mood in this work marked a radical departure from the prevailing traditions of Australian landscape painting.
This painting won the Wynne Prize in 1947 and was acquired by the Gallery in 1952.
oil on canvas on hardboard
71.7 x 93.1 cm board; 91.2 x 112.2 x 6.5 cm frame
Signature & date
Signed l.r. corner, brown oil "Russell Drysdale". Not dated.
Purchased by the Gallery Trustees from Macquarie Galleries, Sydney 19/12/1952
© Russell Drysdale Estate
Shown in 19 exhibitions
1947 Exhibition, Athenaeum Gallery, Melbourne, 30 Sep 1947–11 Oct 1947
Christmas 1947, Macquarie Galleries, Sydney, 10 Dec 1947–24 Dec 1947
Archibald, Wynne and Sulman Competitions for 1947, Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney, 23 Jan 1948–08 Mar 1948
Russell Drysdale (1950), The Leicester Galleries, London, 30 Nov 1950–23 Dec 1950
A retrospective exhibition of Australian painting, Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney, 25 Sep 1953–25 Oct 1953
Contemporary Australian Painters (1957):
- Winnipeg Art Gallery, Canada Jul 1957–Sep 1957
- London Public Library and Art Museum, Canada Sep 1957–Oct 1957
- Art Gallery of Hamilton, Ontario Oct 1957–Nov 1957
- The Kitchener-Waterloo Art Gallery, Canada Nov 1957–Dec 1957
- National Gallery of Canada, Ottawa, Ottawa Dec 1957–Jan 1958
- Montreal Museum of Fine Arts, Canada Feb 1958–Mar 1958
- The Art Gallery of Toronto, Toronto Apr 1958 -
- The Norman Mackenzie Art Gallery, Regina College, Canada May 1958 -
Russell Drysdale: a retrospective exhibition of paintings from 1937 to 1960, Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney, 05 Oct 1960–06 Nov 1960
Russell Drysdale: A retrospective exhibition; paintings 1937-1960 (Queensland Art Gallery), Queensland Art Gallery, South Brisbane, 22 Apr 1961–28 May 1961
Russell Drysdale (Adelaide 1964), John Martin's Auditorium, 04 Mar 1964–21 Mar 1964
The Australian Landscape 1802-1975:
Russell Drysdale: paintings 1940-72, S.H. Ervin Gallery, Sydney, 14 Jun 1985–21 Jul 1985
Twentieth century Australian masterworks from the Art Gallery of New South Wales and the Fred Williams Pilbara series from the collection of CRA Limited, Tokyo Metropolitan Teien Art Museum, 04 Oct 1985–06 Nov 1985
The Wynne prize: an Australian landscape tradition (1987):
- S.H. Ervin Gallery, Sydney 19 Dec 1986–01 Feb 1987
- Lake Macquarie City Art Gallery, Booragul 06 Mar 1987–29 Mar 1987
- Orange Regional Gallery, Australia 10 Apr 1987–17 May 1987
- Griffith Regional Art Gallery 03 Jun 1987–20 Jun 1987
- Wagga Wagga City Art Gallery, Australia 01 Jul 1987–26 Jul 1987
- Albury Regional Gallery, Albury 07 Aug 1987–06 Sep 1987
- Broken Hill City Art Gallery, Broken Hill 18 Sep 1987–26 Oct 1987
- Tamworth City Gallery, Tamworth 05 Nov 1987–13 Dec 1987
The Artists of Hill End:
- Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney 29 Jul 1995–17 Sep 1995
- Bathurst Regional Art Gallery, Bathurst 06 Oct 1995–19 Nov 1995
- New England Regional Art Museum, Armidale 10 Feb 1996–31 Mar 1996
- Broken Hill City Art Gallery, Broken Hill 19 Apr 1996–26 May 1996
- Art Gallery of Ballarat, Ballarat 07 Jun 1996–29 Jul 1996
Russell Drysdale 1912-1981:
- National Gallery of Victoria [St Kilda Road], Melbourne 19 Dec 1997–09 Mar 1998
- Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney 27 Mar 1998–10 May 1998
- Queensland Art Gallery, South Brisbane 18 May 1998–28 Jun 1998
- Museum and Art Galleries of the Northern Territory, Darwin 20 Jul 1998–30 Aug 1998
- Tasmanian Museum and Art Gallery, Hobart 23 Sep 1998–15 Nov 1998
Southern Reflections: Ten contemporary Australian artists:
Australian icons: twenty artists from the collection, Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney, 04 Aug 2000–03 Dec 2000
Great collections (2009):
- Campbelltown Arts Centre, Campbelltown 12 Dec 2008–18 Jan 2009
- Tweed River Regional Art Gallery, Murwillumbah 06 Feb 2009–15 Mar 2009
- Western Plains Cultural Centre 03 Apr 2009–10 May 2009
- Albury Regional Gallery, Albury 29 May 2009–05 Jul 2009
- Art Gallery of Ballarat, Ballarat 24 Jul 2009–30 Aug 2009
Australian modern masterpieces from the Art Gallery of New South Wales:
Referenced in 75 publications
Len Annois (Editor), The Australian artist, East Melbourne, Autumn 1948, 45 (illus.).
Art Gallery of New South Wales, Art Gallery of New South Wales picturebook, Sydney, 1972, 111 (colour illus.).
Angela Bennie, The Sydney Morning Herald, 'Hill End: preserving the painting ground', pg. 13-14, Sydney, 28 Jul 1995, 13.
Helen Campbell, Wynne centenary 1897-1997: a selection of past winners from the Gallery's collection, Sydney, 1997, (colour illus.).
Helen Campbell, Australian art: in the Art Gallery of New South Wales, 'Out of Sydney: city and hinterlands', pg. 185-186, Sydney, 2000, 203 (colour illus.), 300.
Helen Campbell, Look, 'Wynne Centenary', pg. 20-21, Heidelberg, Apr 1997, 20 (colour illus.).
Edmund Capon and Jan Meek (Editors), Portrait of a Gallery, 'Australian 20th Century Art', pg. 71-89, Sydney, 1984, 73, 75 (colour illus.).
Gary Catalano, The years of hope: Australian art and criticism 1959-1968, 'Internationalism', pg. 22-26, Melbourne, 1981, 26.
Gary Catalano, An intimate Australia: The landscape & recent Australian art, 'The figure of Russell Drysdale', pg. 12-29, Sydney, 1985, 20-21 (illus.), 27.
Gary Catalano, Quadrant, ‘The figure of Russell Drysdale’, pg. 23-30, Australia, Apr 1982, 28.
Michael Cook (Editor), Our Australia: poetry anthology: Bush ballads to modern visions, Seven Hills, 2002, front dust jacket (colour illus., detail), inside back flap dust jacket (colour illus.).
Richard Cotter, Change and continuity; 20th Century Australian History, 'Post-war visions', South Yarra, 1998, 177 (colour illus.). source 4.75
Alison Cowan, Reader's Digest Book of the Road, Sydney, 1999, 105 (colour illus.).
Russell Drysdale, The paintings of Russell Drysdale: reproducing fifteen plates in colour with an essay by Joseph Burke, 'List of works and owners, 1951', pg.47-52, Sydney, 1951, 51.
Geoffrey Dutton, Russell Drysdale, London, 1964, 132 (illus.), 187. plate no. 45
Dinah Dysart, The Wynne prize: an Australian landscape tradition, 'The public and critical response to the Wynne prize', pg. 15-22, Sydney, 1986, cover (colour illus.), 15, 26.
Lou Klepac, Russell Drysdale: paintings 1940-72, Sydney, 1985, 9. cat.no. 21
Edwards and Shaw (Printer), Russell Drysdale: retrospective exhibition 1937 - 1960, Sydney, 1960. cat.no. 50
Geoffrey Dutton, Famous Australian art series: Russell Drysdale 1912-1981, Moorebank, 1989, 26, 27 (colour illus.).
Anne Gray, Hendrik Kolenberg and Tim Bonyhady, Russell Drysdale, Perth, 1999, 8, 13.
Kevin Gray and Susan Francis Gray, Elements of land law, New York, 2009, front cover (colour illus.).
Melanie Guile, What is Australia?: The land, 'Seeing the land', pg. 22-25, Port Melbourne, 2009, 24 (colour illus.).
Paul Haefliger, The Sydney Morning Herald, 'Exhibition reveals vitality in art', pg. 2, Sydney, 16 Nov 1956.
Paul Haefliger, The Sydney Morning Herald, 'Gallery's 1952 purchases', pg. 6, Sydney, 26 Mar 1953, 6.
Paul Haefliger., The Sydney Morning Herald, 'Christmas art show stimulating', Sydney, 10 Dec 1947. page number unknown
Richard Haese, Rebels and precursors : the revolutionary years of Australian art, 'The new court painters', pg. 257-267, Ringwood, 1981, 264.
Christopher Heathcote, Russell Drysdale: defining the modern Australian landscape, Kent Town, 2013, 82.
Robert Hughes, The art of Australia, 'The stylists 1939-50', pg.169-196, Melbourne, 1970, 174,195-6, 324.
Bruce James, Art Gallery of New South Wales handbook, 'Australian collection: painting and sculpture', pg. 102-181, Sydney, 1999, 152 (colour illus.).
Lou Klepac, Russell Drysdale: the drawings, 'Russell Drysdale: The Rabbiters and Hill End', pg. 19-25, Sydney, 2012, 24.
Lou Klepac, The life and work of Russell Drysdale, 'Hill end', pg. 87-98, Kensington, 1983, 42, 90-91, 105, 121, 136, 268 (colour illus.), 367. plate no. 82
Elwyn Lynn., The Weekend Australian Magazine, 'Drysdale: the outback psyche revisited...', Sydney, 15 Jun 1985. page number unknown
John MacDonald, The Sydney Morning Herald, 'On our selection: a moonlit mix', pg. 16-17, Sydney, 21 Feb 2009-22 Feb 2009, 17. Review of 'Great Collections' exhibition.
John Macdonald, The Sydney Morning Herald, 'Moments at the end of the world', pg 14-15, Sydney, 05 Aug 1995, 14.
Susan McCulloch-Uehlin, The Weekend Australian, 'The lie of the land', pg. 16-19, Sydney, 20 Nov 1999-21 Nov 1999, 17.
John McDonald, The Sydney Morning Herald, 'The past master', pg. 12, Sydney, 11 Apr 1998, 12.
John McPhee, Great collections, Sydney, 2008, 99 (colour illus.).
Joanna Mendelssohn., Bulletin, 'The artists of Hill End', Sydney, 1995, 14. page number unknown
Tatlock Miller., Sun, '28 give Christmas art show', Sydney, 10 Dec 1947. page number unknown
Joyce Morgan, The Australian, 'Gold in them thar Hill End works', pg. 14, Sydney, 28 Jul 1995, 14 (colour illus.).
Margaret Olds, Australia through time, 'Australia 1947', pg. 330, Sydney, 1993, 330 (colour illus.).
Barry Pearce and Patrick McCaughey, Twentieth century Australian masterworks from the Art Gallery of New South Wales and the Fred Williams Pilbara Series, Tokyo, 1985, 35 (colour illus.). cat.no. 18
Barry Pearce, Art Gallery of New South Wales handbook, 'Australian', pg. 13-35, Sydney, 1988, 26-27 (colour illus.).
Margaret Plant, Russell Drysdale, 'Drysdale: affinities and critics', pg. 15-32, Clayton, 1987, 10 (illus.), 23. The illustration in this publication is a replica of what appeared in 'The Illustrated London News' article dated 16 December, 1950.
John Douglas Pringle and Russell Drysdale, Russell Drysdale's Australia, Sydney, 1974, 7 (colour illus.).
Gurcharn Rehill, General mathematics, South Yarra, 1999, 389 (illus.). Using geometry to analyse perspective in works of art.
Zoë Ross (Editor), Eyewitness travel guides: Australia, 'Botanic gardens and the domain', pg. 100-111, London, 1998, 106 (colour illus.).
Susanna Short., The Sydney Morning Herald, 'Focus on Drysdales at emotional auction', Sydney, 01 Jul 1981. page number unknown
Susanna Short., The Sydney Morning Herald, ‘Richness in little-seen Drysdales’, Sydney, 21 Jun 1985. page number unknown
Bernard Smith, Australian painting 1788-1990, 'Realistic Expressionism and Post Impressionism, mainly in war-time Sydney', pg. 239-271, South Melbourne, 1991, 249, 250 (illus.), 559. fig.no. 144
Bernard Smith, Meanjin, 'Archibald, Wynne, Sulman art awards', pg. 28-39, Melbourne, Autumn 1948, 29.
Bernard Smith, The critic as advocate: selected essays 1941-1988, 'Russell Drysdale 1948', pg. 97-107, Melbourne, 1989, 102.
Geoffrey Smith, Russell Drysdale 1912-1981, Melbourne, 1997, 23, 102, 103 (colour illus.). cat.no. 35
Treania Smith and Lucy Swanton, The Macquarie Galleries, 19 Bligh Street, Sydney invite you to an exhibition of paintings:, Sydney, Dec 1947. cat.no. 5
William Splatt and Barbara Burton, A treasury of Australian painting, 'New visions in an ancient land', pg. 55-56, Australia, 1976, 55, 58 (colour illus.), 67. plate no. 42
William Splatt and Barbara Burton, 100 masterpieces of Australian painting, Adelaide, 1973, 162, 163 (colour illus.). plate no. 78
Kathie Sutherland, Brett Whiteley: A sensual lilne 1957-67, Victoria, 2010, 32.
Edmund Capon, Elizabeth Cross and Barry Pearce, Southern reflections: 10 contemporary Australian artists, Sydney, 1998, 40 (colour illus.). fig.no. 13
Wendy Symonds (Editor), Look, 'Close-ups of the collection', pg. 6, Heidelberg, Mar 1997, 3 (colour illus.), 6.
Wendy Symonds (Editor), Look, Heidelberg, Apr 1998, 3 (colour illus.), 15.
Daniel Thomas and Paul Haefliger, Russell Drysdale; a retrospective exhibition of paintings from 1937 to 1960, Sydney, 1960, 29 (colour illus.), 57. plate no. 13; cat.no. 50
Laurence Thomas., Contemporary Australian painters, 'Foreword', Ottawa, 1957, (illus.). cat.no. 27; fig.no. 4
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Patrick White, Riders in the chariot, Australia, 1993, cover (colour illus.). detail
Donald Williams, In our own image: the story of Australian art, 'Figurative versus abstract 1951-60s', Sydney, 1995, 141 (colour illus.).
Gavin Wilson, The artists of Hill End: Education guide, 'The Hill End Grou, p 1947-56', pg. 2-5., Sydney, 1995, cover (colour illus.), 2 (illus.). fig.no. 1
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Melbourne Contemporary Artists, Melbourne, Sep 1947. cat.no. 21
Editor Unknown (Editor), The Sydney Morning Herald, Sydney, 09 Mar 1959, 10 (illus.).
Russell Drysdale: first exhibition in England, London, 30 Nov 1950, 7. cat.no. 22
Archibald Wynne and Sulman competitions for 1947, Sydney, Jun 1948, 12. cat.no. 35
Editor Unknown (Editor), Bulletin, 'Sundry shows', Sydney, 28 Jan 1948. page number unknown
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author unknown, The Illustrated London News, 'Australia by an Australian artist: Russell Drysdale's first London show', pg. 1005, London, 16 Dec 1950, 1005 (illus.).
Editor Unknown (Editor), Australian art masterpieces, South Yarra, 1984, (colour illus.). plate no. 100