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Australian art

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Picture of Donald Friend



Russell Drysdale

England, Australia

07 Feb 1912 - 29 Jun 1981


"In the heat of a late afternoon, the stifling air red with dust, the main road empty of life, he conveys a difficult and lonely existence, where man constantly battles against the elements."
- Paul Haefliger 1948

In mid-August 1947, prompted by a Sydney Morning Herald article on the deserted gold towns of New South Wales, fellow artist Donald Friend suggested to Drysdale that they make a trip to the Bathurst area to run in Drysdale's new car. On the way to Hill End where they spent the night, they stopped at Sofala, 200 kilometres west of Sydney.

The resulting 'Sofala', also in the collection of the Art Gallery of New South Wales, is one of Drysdale's finest, most powerful paintings. With its compelling evocation of the atmosphere and ambience of a oppressively hot summer afternoon in the deserted main street of this historic country town, it transcends literal description of a particular place, to become an expression of the quintessential qualities of an inland Australian town.

Drysdale's later portrait of Donald Friend standing outside the rear of Hill End's Presbyterian church, is a tribute to their friendship and association with these towns whose unique qualities were cherished by both artists.

Australian Art Department, AGNSW, 2000


Other Title

Portrait of Donald Friend



Media category


Materials used

oil on hardboard


121.5 x 91.4 cm board; 140.3 x 110.3 x 6.0 cm frame

Signature & date

Signed l.r. corner, red oil "Russell Drysdale". Not dated.


Purchased 1949


Not on display

Accession number


Artist information

Russell Drysdale

Artist profile

Works in the collection


Shown in 15 exhibitions

Exhibition history

Referenced in 22 publications


Art Gallery of New South Wales, A selection of eighty-two reproductions mainly from the Australian collection and including examples from the British, French and Dutch [Art Gallery of New South Wales], Sydney, 1959. plate no. 40

Famous Australian artists, The Adelaide Festival of Arts 1964: Souvenir Catalogue of special exhibitions at the National Gallery of South Australia, Famous Australians, Adelaide, 1964. cat. no. 8

Giles Auty, The Weekend Australian, 'Country characters', pg. 19, Sydney, 27 Dec 1997-28 Dec 1997, 19 (illus.). This article appeared in the 'Arts' section of 'The Weekend Australian'.

Helen Campbell, Look, 'Russell Drysdale 1912-1981', pg. 14-15, Heidelberg, Apr 1998, 14 (colour illus.).

Edmund Capon AM, OBE and Ursula Prunster, Face to face: Australian portraits, Sydney, 1986, (illus.). 25

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, 135 (illus.), 187. plate no. 49

Edwards and Shaw (Printer), Russell Drysdale: retrospective exhibition 1937 - 1960, Sydney, 1960. 55

James Gleeson, Art Gallery of New South Wales Quarterly, 'Russell Drysdale', pg. 39-43, Sydney, Oct 1960, front cover (illus.).

Paul Haefliger, The Sydney Morning Herald, 'Drysdale, Fox exhibitions', pg. 7, Sydney, 23 Mar 1949, 7.

Lou Klepac, The life and work of Russell Drysdale, 'Photographs and imagination', pg. 59-66, Kensington, 1983, 61, 93, 274 (colour illus.), 367. plate no. 89

Robert Lindsay., Aspects of Australian Art: Art Gallery of New South Wales travelling art exhibition 1976, 'Russell Drysdale', Sydney, 1976, (illus.). 53; not paginated

Tatlock Miller, Sun, 'Russell Drysdale's fine exhibition', pg. 12, Sydney, 23 Mar 1949, 12.

Hal Missingham, Artists by artists, Sydney, 1954, 8, (illus.). 21

Margaret Olley and Jeffrey Smart, Favourites: Margaret Olley and Jeffrey Smart selections, Sydney, 2002. NOTE: No catalogue numbers; titled 'Portrait of Donald Friend'; Margaret Olley selection.

Andrew Sayers, Sarah Engledow and Wally Caruana, Open air: portraits in the landscape, 'Open air: Portraits in the landscape', pg. 3-66, Sydney, 2008, 39, 42, 44 (colour illus.).

Geoffrey Smith, Russell Drysdale 1912-1981, Melbourne, 1997, 23, 108, 109 (colour illus.). 35

Jill Sykes, Look, 'Donald Friend: memories of an artist and good companion', pg. 29-31, Sydney, Feb 2007, 29 (colour illus.).

Daniel Thomas AM and Paul Haefliger, Russell Drysdale; a retrospective exhibition of paintings from 1937 to 1960, Sydney, 1960, 57. 55

Daniel Thomas, Hemisphere, 'Drysdale's art changed the Australian outlook', pg. 12-18, Sydney, Nov 1960, 16 (illus.).

Gavin Wilson, The artists of Hill End: Education guide, Sydney, 1995, front cover (colour illus.). 3. Image appears in detail

Gavin Wilson, The artists of Hill End, 'The Hill End group', pg. 41-96, Sydney, 1995, 66 (colour illus.), 69, 73, 84, 93, 119. plate no. 31