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James Gleeson interviews Australia's major artists

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image: Russell Drysdale Emus in a landscape 1950 Painting, oil on canvas 101.6 h x 127.0 w Framed 121.1 h x 146.5 w x 7.4 d cm  Purchased 1970 © Estate of Russell Drysdale

Emus in a landscape 1950
Painting, oil on canvas
101.6 h x 127.0 w
Framed 121.1 h x 146.5 w x 7.4 d cm
Purchased 1970
© Estate of Russell Drysdale
more detail

Sir Russell Drysdale

19 October 1978 [unknown location]

James Gleeson: Good. Well, we’ll leave that drawing, if you don’t mind, for the moment and finish with the oils. This is one of our important ones, I think, Emus in a landscape of 1950.

Sir Russell Drysdale: Oh yes, yes.

James Gleeson: Now, that’s been reproduced on the cover of several books, hasn’t it? At least one I can remember.

Sir Russell Drysdale: I don’t know, to tell you truth. I’ve never sort of caught up with them. But that was part of that exhibition at the ’44 drought which I painted in—or was it 1950? I can’t remember.

James Gleeson: Nineteen fifty. We’ve got a date on it, yes.

Sir Russell Drysdale: Nineteen fifty. But it was originally from some of the things that I didn’t paint at the time.

James Gleeson: In that drought series?

Sir Russell Drysdale: A composition. Yes. In the drought series, which I painted in 1944.

James Gleeson: Oh, as early as that?

Sir Russell Drysdale: Of the ’44 drought. Well, they had two very dry years in New South Wales in ’42 and ’43 and it culminated in ’44. It was the most serious drought in many, many times. But nothing could be much mentioned about it, but by the time ’44 came along the war was in a position where these kind of things could be made known. I was commissioned by the Sydney Morning Herald to go down with Keith Newman, a very well known journalist of his day, and to report it.

James Gleeson: I remember those drawings.

Sir Russell Drysdale: I did the drawings and he did that. As a result of that the following year I painted a series of pictures.

James Gleeson: That’s ’45?

Sir Russell Drysdale: That’s in ’45. But there was still things I didn’t paint, probably because at the time I wanted to think more about the subjects a bit.

James Gleeson: Yes.

Sir Russell Drysdale: You store them away in your mind and then you come across some things like that and suddenly you think well, ‘I’d like to do that now’, you know. So that’s how that probably came about.

James Gleeson: What about, is it The rabbiters in the Melbourne Gallery? Is that about the same period?

Sir Russell Drysdale: It’s about the same period, I think.

James Gleeson: It’s a late one that evolved out of that drought series.

Sir Russell Drysdale: Something like that.

James Gleeson: Yes. Oil again.

Sir Russell Drysdale: Oil again. Yes, this is oil.

James Gleeson: Right. Well, Golden Gully. Oh, purchased—where did we get that? Christie’s Auctions in August 1970. This is Emus in a landscape. Do you remember who bought that originally?

Sir Russell Drysdale: Golden Gully?

James Gleeson: No, Emus in a landscape.

Sir Russell Drysdale: Oh. No, I don’t know, I can’t remember. I can’t remember, to tell you the truth.

James Gleeson: Well, Christie’s might be able to help us in that.

Sir Russell Drysdale: I don’t think I ever knew actually.

James Gleeson: Don’t you?

Sir Russell Drysdale: No. It was on loan in London somewhere for quite a while. I think it was bought over there. I’m not too sure.

James Gleeson: Oh, I see. It could have been bought from a London exhibition?

Sir Russell Drysdale: It wasn’t bought from an exhibition. No.

James Gleeson: Oh, wasn’t it?

Sir Russell Drysdale: No, no. I don’t know. I really can’t tell you the history of it.

James Gleeson: No. Well, Christie’s might be able to help us.

Sir Russell Drysdale: Oh, Christie’s might well.


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