Expatriate Australian artist Hilda Rix Nicholas (1884–1961) experienced the tragedy of war at first hand; her husband, Major George Matson Nicholas DSO, was killed in action while commanding the 24th Battalion at Fleurs, France, just five weeks after they were married on 7 October 1916. Her mother and sister also died during the war, from enteric fever, and the grief she experienced at the deaths of her husband and family members is expressed in her work.
Rix Nicholas returned to Australia in 1918. A year later she took a studio in Mosman, Sydney, and began to make drawings of soldiers who had returned from the war but who had not yet found work. During this period, she consciously set out not just to honour her husband’s death but also to create works that would express the national sentiment occasioned by the loss of tens of thousands of Australians in the war.