Australian identity

	Russell Drysdale Sunday evening 1941
  • 	Russell Drysdale Sunday evening 1941
  • 	Weaver Hawkins Dance of the football field 1947
  • 	Wandjuk Marika Sea life (Dreaming of the artist’s mother) 1959
  • 	Charles Meere Australian beach pattern 1940
  • 	John Olsen Five bells 1963
  • 	Sydney Nolan First-class marksman 1946

Questions and activities

  • How do these artworks from the Gallery’s collection represent the notion of Australian identity? What does being Australian mean to you? Using photography or video, create a class portrait that reflects your understanding of this idea.
  • What Australian stories are told in these paintings from the collection? Do you feel you can relate to any of these images or stories? Compile a list of stories that you think are quintessentially Australian. Create a series of drawings to illustrate these. Exhibit the works in class and invite other classes to comment.
  • Explore how each of the artists listed here has expressed an individual vision of Australian society based on their experiences or observations. In class, discuss how images become celebrated as part of a national identity.
  • Consider the subject matter in the paintings by Drysdale, Hawkins and Meere. Debate in class whether these images are still relevant to today’s Australian audiences.
  • Compare the figurative works to the abstract compositions. Which style do you think is most suited to communicating ideas about Australia?