Evening c. 1945
oil on canvas
50 x 60.5 cm
Gift of Eva Besen AO and Marc Besen AO
Donated through the Australian Government’s Cultural Gifts Program 2013, TarraWarra Museum of Art collection
Contact TarraWarra Museum of ArtCopyright
© Estate of Russell Drysdale
The art of Russell Drysdale defined a particular image of the Australian outback: remote, droughtstricken and sparsely populated.
This image was iconic and popular, and it became a national representation that other artists have both returned to and reassessed. His visions of isolated structures, gnarled tree trunks, barren hills, dusty vistas and solid, isolated figures represent the endurance of both the landscape and its inhabitants. Glowing with warm browns, reds, blacks and ochres, his paintings often depict people at the edge of society or border of a town, captured in their everyday activities. Skies are often dramatic and vegetation is scarce. These works are not simple transpositions of scenes of country life. They are, instead, careful compositions drawn from long journeys in the Australian bush. Throughout the 1940-50s Drysdale travelled to western New South Wales, Cape York, Melville Island, Northern Territory and the Kimberley, spending weeks at a time in remote locations.
Drysdale’s view of our landscape was filtered through changes that were brought about by the magnitude of devastation wrought by World War II, the harshness of drought and the questioning of modernity. In 1944, Drysdale was commissioned to document the drought then afflicting western NSW and his concern for the environment is reflected in the confronting images of dusty landscapes, the stark remains of livestock and the tortured, anthropomorphic forms of dead trees. Moreover, Drysdale continually sought a balance between depicting a unique Australian vision in the context of surrealist figuration in the work of British artists such as Henry Moore, John Piper and Graham Sutherland. Evening (c.1945) is no exception. The lone tree in the background stands like a surreal sculpture, charred by fire and drought. The woman stares into the distance, waiting or anticipating. The stillness of the image has come to represent an iconic Australian outback.