Sir George Russell Drysdale
Russell Drysdale was born on Feb. 7, 1912, at Bognor Regis, Sussex, in England. The family moved to Australia, and Russell attended Geelong Grammar School in Victoria. He intended to take up farming but developed a strong interest in art and in 1935 began studying painting in Melbourne, continuing at the Grosvenor School in London and La Grande Chaumière in Paris during 1938-1939.
Returning to Melbourne, Drysdale found a strong resistance to acceptance of the newer art forms. He decided to move to Sydney, where the art world was awakening to European influences, and he immediately found himself at home. In 1941 he traveled through the remoter sections of the hinterland; Man Feeding His Dogs and Moody's Pub capture the region's emptiness.
From the early 1940s, when he began interpreting the life of Australia's rural frontier in a new and highly personalized style, Drysdale turned aside from the established Australian school. Australian impressionism had become something of a stereotype, and Sir Arthur Streeton and other landscapists had painted coastal areas and well-grassed pastoral lands accessible to the main cities. Drysdale took for his settings the wide, dry, ocher-hued heartland of the continent, where he sensed the essence of the Australian experience. He used a warm, deeptoned palette to present somber and astringent views of desolate "heartbreak" landscapes typical of the back-country and to show how the emptiness and monotony affected those who made their lives in this environment.
Drysdale created pictorial enigmas that preserve something of the land's mystical quality and of the special response of people to it. As critic James Gleeson pointed out (1969): "Man is not shown by Drysdale as protagonist at grips with ruthless nature; rather he is drawn as a malleable creature upon whom the external forces have imposed the stamp of their authority." ( Your Dictionary )