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William DARGIE

Melbourne, Victoria, Australia 1912 – 2003

  • Europe undated, Brisbane

Brisbane. 1942 Place made: Brisbane, Queensland, Australia
Materials & Technique: prints, ink; paper etching, printed in black ink with plate-tone, from one plate Support: white textured wove paper
Edition State: published state
Impression: artist's proof
Edition: edition unknown

Primary Insc: No inscriptions
Dimensions: plate-mark 22.4 h x 22.5 w cm sheet 26.4 h x 28.4 w cm
Acknowledgement: Purchased 1995
Accession No: NGA 95.923
Subject: War: second world war, 1939-1945
  • Purchased by the National Gallery of Australia, from Eastgate Gallery, Melbourne, 1995.

The experience of wartime impinged on everyday life not just on the battleground. The first American soldiers arrived in Brisbane in 1942. They were paid significantly more than their Australian counterparts, they could purchase cigarettes excise free, their uniforms were smart, and they got the attention of the taxi drivers, barmaids and the girls in general. The smouldering resentment of the Australian troops gave way to some huge street fights, most notably the so-called ‘Battle of Brisbane’. These clashes between Australian and American soldiers were censored, and were certainly not suitable subjects for an Australian official war artist such as Sir William Dargie, who was stationed in Brisbane at the time. Yet Dargie’s etching, Brisbane, provides a graphic insight into the situation. A young, flimsily-clad, girl is walking with two American soldiers. One, a stylishly dressed negro, strides ahead, while another cigarette-smoking American is at her side. Behind them, a downcast Australian soldier in his army fatigues plods along, fully aware that he is not going to feature in the action.

Roger Butler

Text © National Gallery of Australia, Canberra 2010
From: Anne Gray (ed), Australian art in the National Gallery of Australia, National Gallery of Australia, Canberra, 2002