Reinventing the Figure
Recovering from a nervous breakdown, Dobell tended to apply his creative energies on reinvestigating the human figure. The initial trigger was a visit to New Guinea in 1949, where he was fired by how people walked around semi-naked, as well as how they decorated themselves with crafted ornaments, body painting and vivid bird plumage. There seemed a vitality to the figure.
Dobell was receiving constant commissions for formal portraits, although his other interests were explored in the privacy of his studio. Initially there were compositions distilled from peoples seen in New Guinea. These led him into sophisticated figure-based abstractions where the artist alludes to classical Greco-Roman nudes as well as the bio-morphic forms of Pablo Picasso and Henry Moore. Even at his most abstract, when Dobell seems to show futuristic craft in outer space, the configuration is derived from human figures.
Drawing, his great love, is kept close in these late works. Using a repertoire of dashes, angled dabs, and narrow elongated strokes, the paintings are visibly organisations of fluent line.