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


Inquisitive child



Elaine Russell


1941 – 12 Apr 2017

Language group: Kamilaroi, Northern Riverine region

Artist profile

  • Details

    Other Title
    Media category
    Materials used
    synthetic polymer paint on paper
    56 x 76 cm; 66.3 x 84.1cm frame
    Donated through the Australian Government’s Cultural Gifts Program by Gabriella Roy 2021
    North Building, ground level, Yiribana Gallery
    Accession number
    © Estate of Elaine Russell

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    Artist information
    Elaine Russell

    Artist profile

    Works in the collection


  • About

    Aunty Elaine Russell was central to the small group of Aboriginal artists who began capturing their experiences of growing up on missions in New South Wales in Sydney in the 1990s. Born in Tingha, New South Wales, Russell spent her early years in La Perouse before moving with her family to Murrin Bridge Mission on the Lachlan River near Lake Cargelligo. She began painting in 1993 while undertaking a course at the Eora Centre TAFE in Redfern. Russell drew on her own lived experiences and depicted stories from her childhood – daily routines and particular incidents. Her works bring attention to the struggles she experienced living on missions as well as the importance of family.

    This work is a beautiful example of Russell’s painting detailing a family by the river with three homes in the top left corner. It is an idyllic scene that highlights the happier times within Russell’s childhood, although the houses perhaps indicate the ever-present control of mission managers over everyday life. Russell’s trademark trees and figures are nostalgic representations of her memories and important records of a time in our history we should never repeat but always remember. Russell’s works directly relate to those of Roy Kennedy, Ian Abdulla and Robert Campbell Jnr who all comment on mission life and childhood experiences of growing up on the edges of society.

  • Exhibition history

    Shown in 1 exhibition

Other works by Elaine Russell