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William Dobell
, 1943

by Max Dupain

gelatin silver photograph (mount: 61.0 cm x 50.9 cm, image/sheet: 43.4 cm x 38.6 cm)

Sir William Dobell (1899–1970), painter, was apprenticed to an architect and studied art in Sydney before leaving Australia for Europe in 1929. On his return to Sydney after a decade he managed to impress conservative and modernist art factions alike. In World War 2, before being appointed an official war artist, he served in a camouflage unit and the Civil Construction Corps; great portraits, including The Billy Boy, arose from this experience. Dobell was devastated by the fallout from his contested winning portrait of artist Joshua Smith in the 1943 Archibald Prize, but rallied to win both the Wynne Prize for landscape and the Archibald Prize in 1948. He won another Archibald in 1959, and Time commissioned his portrait of Robert Menzies for its cover in 1960. These and other successes of Dobell’s, including his knighthood, conferred in 1966, contributed to a rise in the status of artists in Australia.

Collection: National Portrait Gallery
Gift of Danina Anderson, daughter of Max Dupain 2017
Donated through the Australian Government's Cultural Gifts Program
Accession number: 2017.18