Wish You Were Here Research

My Wish You Were Here project is going to be based around an artist called William Dobell, he won the Archibald prize in 1943, although it did cause some controversy as some people thought it was more of a caricature than a portrait of another artist called Joshua Smith.

At age 17 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 Lambert.

In 1929, Dobell was awarded the Society of Artists’ Travelling Scholarship and travelled to England to the Slade School where he studied under 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.

Quote from 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.

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