Dobell’s Circle is an exhibition of paintings and drawings from the TarraWarra Museum of Art collection which features significant members of the lively community of artists William Dobell mixed with, highlighting how central he was to the mid-century Sydney scene.
Among those friends gathered in this exhibition: Dobell became a life-long friend of Godfrey Miller in drawing classes at the Slade School and his early Reclining Nude (c. 1931) visibly shows the foundation that Miller later developed with his Nude and the Moon series of paintings. John Passmore moved in and shared a room with Dobell in London, and later, overt visual affinities would develop between Dobell’s reinvestigation of the figure in New Guinea works like The Thatchers (1953) and Passmore’s contemporaneous semi-abstract paintings of grouped nudes. Among other escapades, Donald Friend helped Dobell heave a piano up to his attic studio in London; Margaret Preston agreed to be co-exhibitor for his first exhibition in 1942 at the Art Gallery of New South Wales; Elaine Haxton whisked the painter off to a ritzy restaurant to celebrate his controversial Archibald Prize win; Justin O’Brien was a caring stalwart when Dobell’s health suffered; and Russell Drysdale, an enduring friend, joined Dobell and Sidney Nolan in representing Australia at the 1954 Venice Biennale. In the 1940s, Dobell was also a Trustee of the Art Gallery of New South Wales, becoming an influential advocate for rising artists.
Shown concurrently with the Discovering Dobell exhibition, Dobell’s Circle, which also features works by Ralph Balson, John Olsen, Lloyd Rees, and Jeffrey Smart, provides an opportunity to reconsider this painter’s formative influence within Sydney’s artistic community and deepen our understanding of his vital contribution to Australia’s cultural life.