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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.

Sir William Dobell

Louis Kahan

fibre-tipped pen and pen and ink on paper (sheet: 55.9 cm x 38.0 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, did much to increase the status of artists in Australia.

Collection: National Portrait Gallery
Gift of Mrs Lily Kahan 2017
Donated through the Australian Government's Cultural Gifts Program
© Estate of Louis Kahan

Accession number: 2017.98

Currently not on display

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Artist and subject

Louis Kahan

William Dobell

Subject professions

Visual arts and crafts

Donated by

Lily Kahan (52 portraits)

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.

Self portrait, 1949 Louis Kahan
Self portrait, 1949 Louis Kahan
Self portrait, 1949 Louis Kahan
Self portrait, 1949 Louis Kahan

A guy from Paris

Magazine article by Dr Sarah Engledow, 2018

Sarah Engledow on a foundational gallery figure who was quick on the draw.

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.

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© National Portrait Gallery 2020
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Canberra, ACT 2600, Australia


Phone +61 2 6102 7000
Fax +61 2 6102 7001
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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.