DETAIL : Charles CONDER 'Ricketts Point, Beaumaris' [Sandringham] 1890 oil on wood panel NGA 1973.827
Russell DRYSDALE | Boy running, Cooktown

England 1912 – Australia 1981
Australia from 1923; England/France 1938- 39; England 1950-51, 1957; England, North America 1965; England 1976; UK, North America 1978
Boy running, Cooktown c.1952
oil on canvas
51.0 (h) x 77.0 (w) cm
Framed 63.6 (h) x 89.8 (w) x 3.6 (d) cm
signed l.r., oil "Russell Drysdale";
not dated
NGA 1959.134
© Estate of Russell Drysdale
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In 1951 Russell Drysdale spent a number of months travelling throughout northern Queensland and the Cape York Peninsula. In response to this trip he painted Boy running, Cooktown. This painting combines a number of characteristic Drysdale motifs: a long street leading to a vanishing point on the horizon, a building with veranda in profile and a dramatic sky balanced by a vast foreground.

There is an inherent drama in this image of a young Indigenous boy running across the street, his action rupturing the stillness of the picture. Drysdale depicts the boy in dynamic movement, yet he seems suspended in time and space. His activity in the isolated street begs the question: where is he running?

In his paintings of Australia’s remote towns and settlements Drysdale conveyed a sense of life lived in connection with the land. He explored the spatial, environmental and personal elements that contribute to our experience of place. As in so many of Australia’s remote country towns, the main street in this painting includes the iconic structure of a war memorial. In contrast to the youthful potential of the boy, the memorial is a reminder of history and the loss of many young Australians in wartime.