Russell Drysdale was an iconic Australian painter and draughtsman who delivered an unique vision of the Australian landscape and its people. Depicting a remote and alienating environment, he travelled extensively throughout the isolated areas of Northern, Central and Western Australia, picturing the outback towns of the interior peopled by gaunt and lonely figures. Working first as a jackaroo and then on his family's sugar plantations in Queensland, Drysdale decided to pursue an artistic career despite being almost blind in one eye. He began studies in Melbourne under George Bell, later studying in London and Paris. He was influenced by the English artists Sutherland and Moore, as well as by fellow artist Peter Purves-Smith. Surrealist tendencies are evident, particularly in his 'drought' paintings, which followed a commission in 1944 by the Sydney Morning Herald to cover the devastation of the drought in western NSW.
In 1969, Drysdale was knighted for his services to art and was awarded the Companion of the Order of Australia in 1980. A large retrospective exhibition was held at the Art Gallery of NSW in 1960, and a major touring exhibition was organised by the National Gallery of Victoria in 1997. Drysdale is represented in the National Gallery of Australia, all state and regional galleries, and important international collections such as the Tate Gallery, London, and the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York.