William Dobell
Cockney Kid with Hoop 1936
oil on plywood
65.0 x 30.5 cm
TarraWarra Museum of Art collection
Gift of Eva Besen AO and Marc Besen AC 2015
© Sir William Dobell Art Foundation

Discovering Dobell

Past Exhibitions
27 May - 13 August 2017

Discovering Dobell offers an intimate glimpse of William Dobell (1899–1970), 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. This exhibition 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 exhibition 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, including affectionate images of grinning ockers, struggling young mothers, cheeky street children at play, and haughty women intent on keeping-up-appearances; 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—these include controversial and recognisable portraits of Joshua Smith, Dame Mary Gilmore and Helena Rubinstein; 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 in a series of experimental drawings and paintings.

In association with Wakefield Press, the Museum has produced a major new publication to accompany the exhibition featuring a new insightful analysis and appraisal of Dobell’s achievement by Christopher Heathcote.

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