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Antonio Dattilo Rubbo (1870-1955)
In the Sunlight n.d.
oil on canvas
35.5 x 30.4 cm
Gift of Howard Hinton 1934  


Born 1870, Naples, Italy. Died 1955, Sydney, New South Wales.

Known for his openness to modern ideas, together with his wit, vitality and colourful dress, Anthony (Antonio) Dattilo Rubbo was a popular figure in the Sydney art scene. Throughout his long career he also advocated for art to be introduced into the mainstream schooling system.

Dattilo Rubbo studied drawing and painting in Rome and at the Royal Academy of Fine Arts, Naples. He arrived in Sydney in 1897 and the following year started a studio which offered painting and life classes and that became the main rival to Julian Ashton’s Art School. He also taught at the Royal Art Society of New South Wales.

For nearly three decades Dattilo Rubbo was one of Sydney’s most influential teachers, with Lloyd Rees, Grace Cossington Smith, Roland Wakelin, Roy de Maistre and Margaret Coen among his students. He is considered to be responsible for inspiring and introducing a whole generation of Australian artists to modernism. In 1924 Dattilo Rubbo assisted to establish the Manly Art Gallery and Museum which holds over 180 of his works.

Though classically trained, Dattilo Rubbo’s painting styles are an eclectic mix of nineteenth-century Realism, Naturalism, and Impressionism. He is well known for his landscapes, portraits, and genre pictures, such as In the Sunlight, which frequently featured destitute old men. Accompanying this work's donation, Howard Hinton wrote to Principal Newling: “Rubbo does such numbers of wrinkled men and women that I was glad to get this cheery sketch of a Man on the Land. It was done in one day”.