The night bus

Herbert Badham(c. 1943)

National Gallery of Victoria

National Gallery of Victoria
Melbourne, Australia

Depicting the interior of a bus at night, this painting presents a lively snapshot of life in Sydney during the Second World War. The headlights of other vehicles are visible through several of the windows of the bus and the image is tilted as if to emphasise the vehicle’s lurching movement. The passengers include a woman in the foreground reading a contemporary illustrated magazine like Picture Post and numerous others blatantly flouting the no smoking sign at the back of the bus. Also depicted are an American GI and a female ticket collector, two figures whose presence points to the painting being made during the Second World War and specifically after 1942, the date in which women were first employed in such roles.
Herbert Badham was born in Sydney in 1899. He served in the Royal Australian Navy from 1917–19 and in 1921, began his art training at the Sydney Art School, studying under Julian Ashton, George Lambert and Henry Gibbons until 1926. A committed observer of the people and activities around him, Badham’s most compelling pictures incorporate an array of visual details that reveal much about contemporary life.

Text © National Gallery of Victoria, Australia


  • Title: The night bus
  • Creator: Herbert Badham
  • Creator Lifespan: 1899 - 1961
  • Creator Nationality: Australian
  • Creator Gender: Male
  • Creator Death Place: Sydney, New South Wales
  • Creator Birth Place: Sydney, New South Wales
  • Date Created: (c. 1943)
  • Location Created: Sydney, Australia
  • Physical Dimensions: 35.7 x 25.6 cm (Unframed)
  • Type: Paintings
  • Rights: National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne Purchased NGV Foundation, 2009, © National Gallery of Victoria
  • External Link: National Gallery of Victoria
  • Medium: oil on composition board
  • Provenance: Private collection, Sydney; with Savill Galleries, Sydney; Hicks Family Collection, Melbourne, before 2009; included in the sale of the Hicks Family Collection of Australian Social Realism, Deutscher and Hackett, Melbourne, 29 April 2009, no. 19; from where purchased for the National Gallery of Victoria, 2009.
  • Place Part Of: Australia

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