William Dobell

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to: navigation, search
Sir William Dobell
William Dobell Max Dupain.jpg
William Dobell, 1942, photograph by Max Dupain
Born (1899-09-24)24 September 1899
Cooks Hill, Newcastle, Australia
Died 13 May 1970(1970-05-13) (aged 70)
Wangi Wangi, Australia
Nationality Australian
Known for Painting

Sir William Dobell, OBE (24 September 1899 – 13 May 1970) was an Australian artist.

Career[edit]

William Dobell was born in Cooks Hill, a working-class neighbourhood of Newcastle, New South Wales in Australia. His father was a builder and there were six children.

Dobell's artistic talents were evident early. In 1916, he was apprenticed to Newcastle architect, Wallace L. Porter and in 1924 he moved to Sydney as a draftsman. In 1925, he enrolled in evening art classes at the Sydney Art School (which later became the Julian Ashton School of Art), with Henry Gibbons as his teacher. He was influenced by George Washington Lambert.

In 1929, Dobell was awarded the Society of Artists' Travelling Scholarship[1] and travelled to England to the Slade School of Fine Art where he studied under Philip Wilson Steer, Henry Tonks and William Orpen. In 1930, he won first prize for figure painting at Slade and also travelled to Poland. In 1931 he moved on to Belgium and Paris, and after 10 years in Europe returned to Australia – taking with him a new Expressionist style of painting as opposed to his earlier naturalistic approach.

In 1939, he began as a part-time teacher at East Sydney Technical College. After the outbreak of war, he was drafted into the Civil Construction Corps of the Allied Works Council in 1941 as a camouflage painter; he later became an unofficial war artist.

In 1943, Dobell's portrait of Joshua Smith, titled "Portrait of an artist", was awarded the Archibald Prize. This was contested in 1944 by two unsuccessful entrants, Mary Edwards and Joseph Wolinski, who brought a lawsuit against Dobell and the Gallery's Board of Trustees in the Supreme Court of New South Wales on the grounds that the painting was a caricature. The claim was dismissed and the award was upheld, but the ordeal left Dobell emotionally disturbed and he retreated in 1945 to his sister's home at Wangi Wangi on Lake Macquarie, where he began to paint landscapes.

In 1944, he had his first solo exhibition including public collection loans at the inauguration of the David Jones Art Gallery, Sydney.

In 1949, he visited New Guinea as a guest of Sir Edward Hallstrom with writers Frank Clune and Colin Simpson. The trip inspired a new series of tiny, brilliantly coloured landscapes. In 1950, he revisited New Guinea; on his return to Australia he continued to paint scenes of New Guinea, as well as portraits.

Between 1960 and 1963 TIME magazine commissioned Dobell to paint four portraits for covers, one per year, of: Robert Menzies, Prime Minister of Australia; South Vietnam's President Ngo Dinh Diem; Frederick G. Donner, the Chairman of General Motors; and Tunku Abdul Rahman, Prime Minister of Malaysia.

In 1964, Dobell exhibited in a major retrospective at the Art Gallery of New South Wales and the first monograph of his work was written by James Gleeson.

He died in 1970 in Wangi Wangi. The sole beneficiary of his estate was the Sir William Dobell Art Foundation, which was founded on 19 January 1971.

A film of Dobell's life, titled Yours sincerely, Bill Dobell was made in 1981 by Brian Adams and Cathy Shirley for the Australian Broadcasting Commission and the William Dobell Art Foundation. Brian Adams' book Portrait of an Artist - A biography of William Dobell was first published in 1983 by Hutchinson Publishing Group and revised in paperback in 1992 for Random House Australia.

A book on the life and art of William Dobell, William Dobell: An Artist's Life by Elizabeth Donaldson, was compiled in 2010 with the support of the Sir William Dobell Art Foundation and Dobell House, in Wangi Wangi. It is published by Exisle Publishing.

Analysis[edit]

Dobell's style is unique in being able to adapt to suit the character of his subject. This was best described by James Gleeson; "One of the astonishing things about Dobell's portraiture is his ability to adjust his style to the nature of the personality he is portraying ... If the character of his sitter is broad and generous, he paints broadly and generously. If the character is contained and inward looking, he uses brushstrokes that convey this fact. In his later portraits one has only to look at a few square inches of a painted sleeve to know what sort of person is wearing it."

Among private and other public holdings, examples of Dobell's work are exhibited in the Newcastle Region Art Gallery, the Art Gallery of New South Wales, the Queensland Art Gallery in Brisbane and the National Gallery of Australia in Canberra.

Legacy[edit]

Awards and honours[edit]

In 1943, Dobell won the Archibald Prize for a portrait of the artist Joshua Smith. This was unsuccessfully challenged in court as being caricature rather than portraiture.

In 1948, Dobell entered "Margaret Olley" in the Archibald and won; he also won the Wynne prize for "Storm approaching Wangi".

In 1959, Dobell again won the Archibald for "Dr E. G. MacMahon".

He was made an Officer of the Order of the British Empire (OBE) in 1965 and was knighted in 1966.

The federal electoral Division of Dobell in New South Wales is named after him.

Exhibitions[edit]

Dobell had the following solo exhibitions:

  • 1942 'Margaret Preston and William Dobell loan exhibition' Art Gallery of New South Wales, 19 March – 16 April
  • 1944 'William Dobell', David Jones' Art Gallery, Sydney, 1–26 August
  • 1954 'William Dobell, exhibition of paintings', David Jones' Art Gallery, 27 January – 17 February
  • 1959 'The Art of William Dobell' National Gallery Society of Queensland, Finney Isles Gallery, Brisbane, August–September
  • 1960 'William Dobell', War Memorial Gallery of Fine Arts, The University of Sydney, 12–27 April
  • 1960 'William Dobell', Museum of Modern Art of Australia, Melbourne, 17 May – 10 June
  • 1960 'Dobell loan exhibition', Newcastle City Art Gallery, 22 June – 30 July
  • 1960 Adelaide, Adelaide Festival of Arts
  • 1964 'William Dobell paintings from 1926–1964', Art Gallery of New South Wales, 15 July – 30 August
  • 1964 'William Dobell exhibitions', Bendigo Art Gallery, Bendigo, Victoria, November
  • 1965 'William Dobell, first London exhibition', Commonwealth Arts Festival, Qantas Gallery, London, 16 Sept. – 2 Oct.
  • 1970 'Sir William Dobell recent paintings', Newcastle City Art Gallery, 3–26 April
  • 1970 'Paintings and Drawings by Sir William Dobell', Girl Guides Association of New South Wales, Robert Wardrop Galleries, Sydney, 26 September – 1 October
  • 1985 'William Dobell. The Painting of a Portrait', Lake Macquarie Community Gallery, 7 February – 10 March; S. H. Ervin Gallery, 21 March – 28 April
  • 1993 'William Dobell exhibitions', David Jones Art Gallery, 1–21 April
  • 1997–1998 'William Dobell; the painter's progress,' The Art Gallery of New South Wales, 14 February – 27 April 97; Newcastle Region Art Gallery, 7 May – 6 July 97; Museum of Modern Art at Heide, Melbourne, 29 July – 21 September 97; Queensland Art Gallery, 25 October – 7 December 97; Tasmanian Museum and Art Gallery, 8 January – 1 March 98

The book William Dobell: An Artist's Life by Elizabeth Donaldson published in 2010 includes many of Dobell's works, as well as archival photographs.

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ "TRAVELLING SCHOLAR.". The Sydney Morning Herald (NSW). 10 April 1929. p. 18. Retrieved 2 May 2014. 

External links[edit]

Awards
Preceded by
William Dargie
Archibald Prize
1943
for Joshua Smith
Succeeded by
Joshua Smith
Preceded by
William Dargie
Archibald Prize
1948
for Margaret Olley
Succeeded by
Arthur Murch
Preceded by
William Edwin Pidgeon
Archibald Prize
1959
for Dr. Edward MacMahon
Succeeded by
Judy Cassab