We acknowledge the Gadigal of the Eora Nation, the traditional custodians of the Country on which the Art Gallery of NSW stands.


recto: Study for 'Drought' series verso: (related doodles)



Russell Drysdale

England, Australia

07 Feb 1912 – 29 Jun 1981

Artist profile

  • Details

    Other Title
    recto: Study for Drought Series
    Media category
    Materials used
    pencil on ivory machine wove paper
    18.5 x 25.2 cm sheet
    Signature & date

    Signed and dated l.r., pencil "Russell Drysdale/ 45".

    Purchased 1981
    Not on display
    Accession number
    © Estate of Russell Drysdale

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    Artist information
    Russell Drysdale

    Artist profile

    Works in the collection


  • About

    This drawing is related to Drysdale's major painting 'Walls of China', also in the Art Gallery of New South Wales collection. It arose out of Drysdale's journey in 1944 through the drought-stricken inland of western New South Wales. A series of dry seasons had culminated in a year of severe drought, the worst on record. Towards the end of the year 'The Sydney Morning Herald' commissioned him to accompany reporter Keith Newman and a photographer to cover the story. Drysdale's illustrations for three newspaper reports led to recognition of his great skill as a draughtsman; while his experience inspired a remarkable series of paintings including 'Walls of China'.

    While Drysdale's newspaper illustrations of the drought were mostly based upon memory or thumbnail sketches that he had made on the spot; this drawing was made in the studio following his return to Sydney. As part of his working process, Drysdale created a small pen and ink drawing 'Study for 'Walls of China' '(also in the AGNSW collection. The latter summarises his planned composition for the painting, revealing a stage when he had selected the wind-eroded form of a dead tree to comprise the central motif, symbolising the devastation he had witnessed. This larger pencil drawing 'Study for 'Drought' series' reveals a development from this in which Drysdale invested the basal root of the tree with a claw-like talon, to heighten the surreal atmosphere of his experience.

  • Exhibition history

    Shown in 4 exhibitions

  • Bibliography

    Referenced in 2 publications

Other works by Russell Drysdale

See all 37 works