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The National Portrait Gallery acknowledges the Traditional Custodians of Country throughout Australia and recognises the continuing connection to lands, waters and communities. We pay our respect to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultures and to Elders both past and present.

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander viewers are warned that this website contains images of deceased persons.

Sketch for Prime Minister Robert Menzies, 1960

William Dobell

watercolour and gouache on paper (sheet: 25.2 cm x 24.0 cm)

Rt Hon Sir Robert Gordon Menzies KT AK CH PC QC (1894–1978) was Prime Minister of Australia for a total of nineteen years – from 1939 to 1941 as leader of the United Australia Party, and again from 1949 to 1966 as leader of the Liberal Party, of which he was a founder. Time magazine commissioned three-time Archibald winner Sir William Dobell to paint a portrait of Menzies for the cover of its issue of 4 April 1960, which contained a very long article detailing ‘the speed with which Australia is coming of age’ under Menzies’s ‘decade of unabashed wooing of free enterprise’. (The piece quoted a senior Australian diplomat who asserted ‘Nowadays we can talk to anybody in the world without any sense of innate inferiority.’) Dobell had less than a fortnight in which to create the cover image, and was able to secure only two sittings with Menzies in Canberra. He commented that Menzies was an ‘extremely good’ sitter, ‘very easy and relaxed’. In the process of producing a portrait, Dobell often followed pencil drawings with quite detailed sketches in oils. He made this preliminary sketch for the Time commission during the Canberra sittings.

Collection: National Portrait Gallery
Purchased with funds provided by L Gordon Darling AC CMG 1999

Accession number: 1999.40

Currently not on display

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Artist and subject

William Dobell (age 61 in 1960)

Sir Robert Menzies KT AK CH LLM QC (age 66 in 1960)

Related information

The Companion

Permanent collection catalogue

Café and shop

On one level The Companion talks about the most famous and frontline Australians, but on another it tells us about ourselves: who we read, who we watch, who we listen to, who we cheer for, who we aspire to be, and who we'll never forget. The Companion is available to buy online and in the Portrait Gallery Store.

Dr Edward MacMahon, 1959 by William Dobell
Dr Edward MacMahon, 1959 by William Dobell
Dr Edward MacMahon, 1959 by William Dobell
Dr Edward MacMahon, 1959 by William Dobell

Bill and Ted's excellent portrait.

Magazine article by Dr Sarah Engledow, 2016

Sarah Engledow on Messrs Dobell and MacMahon and the art of friendship.

Sir Charles Lloyd Jones, 1951 William Dobell
Sir Charles Lloyd Jones, 1951 William Dobell
Sir Charles Lloyd Jones, 1951 William Dobell
Sir Charles Lloyd Jones, 1951 William Dobell

Home and away

Magazine article by Dr Sarah Engledow, 2009

Sir William Dobell painted the portraits of Sir Charles Lloyd Jones and Sir Hudson Fysh, who did much to promote the image of Australia in this country and abroad.

Bob Hawke, 2012 Luke Cornish
Bob Hawke, 2012 Luke Cornish
Bob Hawke, 2012 Luke Cornish
Bob Hawke, 2012 Luke Cornish

Primed

Some Prime Ministers

Previous exhibition, 2019

Seventeen of Australia’s thirty prime ministers to date are represented in the contrasting sizes, moods and mediums of these portraits.

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The National Portrait Gallery acknowledges the Traditional Custodians of Country throughout Australia and recognises the continuing connection to lands, waters and communities. We pay our respect to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultures and to Elders both past and present.

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander viewers are warned that this website contains images of deceased persons.