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William Dobell (1899-1970)
Carnival  1941
oil on board
24.6 x 31.6 cm
Gift of Howard Hinton 1941
Sponsored by Rose and Bruce McCarthy in 2015 for the Adopt An Artwork Program


Born 1899, Newcastle, New South Wales. Died 1970, Wangi Wangi, New South Wales.

Sir William Dobell was a painter best known for his portraits, which used an unorthodox expressive style to capture his subjects.

Dobell studied at Julian Ashton’s Art School in Sydney. Awarded a Society of Artist’s travelling scholarship in 1929, he studied and worked in London, often sharing rooms with Eric Wilson, then travelled to the continent to see the work of the Old Masters before returning to Sydney in 1939. Dobell’s reputation as an Australian artist who had exhibited at the Royal Academy in London ensured his welcome in art circles in Sydney.

Dobell won the Archibald Portrait prize three times during his career. His first win in 1943 was surrounded by controversy after his portrait of fellow artist Joshua Smith was challenged as a caricature and irreparably damaged both artists’ confidence.

Painted shortly after returning from Europe in 1939, Carnival depicts a hazy beach scene with indistinct and faceless figures inhabiting the landscape. In the lower right hand corner, a dog kicks up sand into its owner’s face – a touch of humour in this picture of Australian beach culture.

Artist and critic James Gleeson suggested that Dobell’s most creative period was his ten years in London, and his work from that time and into the 1940s was dependent on it, either stylistically or through studies.