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An image of Sofala by Russell Drysdale

Russell Drysdale

(England, Australia 07 Feb 1912 – 29 Jun 1981)

Media category
Materials used
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
Accession number
© Russell Drysdale Estate
20th & 21st c Australian art
Further information

'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.

Bibliography (75)

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Exhibition history (19)

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):

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):

The Artists of Hill End:

Russell Drysdale 1912-1981:

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):

Australian modern masterpieces from the Art Gallery of New South Wales: