Russell Drysdale1912 - 1981 Youth at Broome 1958
- oil on canvas
In 1956 Russell Drysdale travelled with his family in an old Dodge stationwagon across the Top End of Australia and through Western Australia's Kimberley, Pilbara and Gascoyne regions. Over a six month road-trip, camping out in swags and eating kangaroo and emu, the family experienced some of Australia's most beautiful and remote areas.
Drysdale recorded the journey in photographs, sketches and diary entries which would later form the basis of a series of outback images he painted while in London in the late 1950s. Youth at Broome is a major painting in the resulting body of work that Drysdale produced in response to his observations of the tenacity of human existence within the harsh environment of the outback.
The work has its origins in a group of photographs Drysdale took of children playing in a rubbish tip on the outskirts of Broome. He depicts an Aboriginal youth, set against the abandoned wreck of a truck, and behind the figure, a distant stretch of houses suggestive of a ghostly mirage on the horizon.
Areas of the figure are almost translucent, and the youth appears to merge with the land and sky, evoking a suggestion of the inseparability between people and land. The dominating presence of the claw of twisted wreckage alludes to the impermanence of European habitation in the natural environment and introduces an element of menace to the scene.