This story is drawn from the exhibition Discovering Dobell - presented by TarraWarra Museum of Art, 27 May to 13 August 2017.
Feature Image: William Dobell Cockney Kid with Hoop / 1936 / oil on plywood / 65 x 30.5 cm
TarraWarra Museum of Art collection, Victoria. Gift of Eva Besen AO and Marc Besen AC.
Donated through the Australian Government’s Cultural Gifts Program 2015.
The exhibition, curated by Christopher Heathcote, offered an intimate glimpse of William Dobell (1899-1974), one of Australia’s most important 20th century artists, whose heart remained anchored in the daily life of everyday people, from the streets of Depression-raked London to Sydney’s Kings Cross. Following the themes of the exhibition, this story explores what this renowned artist achieved with his work, and why it was significant to Australia in the mid-twentieth century.
Besides tracing how ideas set down in loose sketches and careful drawings were developed into calculated compositions, the story focusses on three major phases within Dobell’s production: the first part is a detailed examination of the formative decade the artist spent in London, and his growing interest there in truthfully portraying aspects of common life; this is followed by a series of paintings and studies which highlight how Dobell redefined portraiture upon his return to Australia, and what it was in his images of Sydneysiders which broke accepted convention, and thereby rocked society; finally, there is a focus on the artist’s later reconsideration of the human figure, prompted by trips to New Guinea coupled with Dobell’s efforts to reinvent his approach to drawing from life.