The TarraWarra Museum of Art is just outside of Healesville. The setting on a rise in a valley studded with vineyards is stunning and there is always something of interest to see. The current exhibitions are Discovering Dobell and Dobell’s Circle, they run until August 13.
The sky was overcast and I had feared there may be thick fog at Yarra Glen as there often is in winter. As I drove through Yering and crested a hill, all was clear and a beautiful mist rose up against the distant ranges. The weather was mild with just a slight breeze sending the leaves fluttering down in the avenue that leads to the gallery entry.
I went with quilters from the Waverley Patchworkers Art Quilters group which added to the experience. It is always interesting to listen to other viewers reactions and put your own into words.
All I really knew about William Dobell was that he was a portraitist and there was a big controversy over his 1943 Archibald Prize win with his portrait of Joshua Smith. The image was said to be a caricature by two other entrants and therefore ineligible. The matter went to court and although Dobell’s painting remained the winner, the bitterness caused by the dispute remained. Dobell withdrew for a long time and turned then to landscapes.
The exhibition does include many of the well known portraits, but it was the and documents from his archive that revealed much more about his work. Dobell was a consummate draftsman, and each work developed through many drawings and painted sketches. His focus was not on the famous, but on the ordinary – this also set him apart from conventional views on portraiture. His early work in London during the 1930s depression focusses on the drabness and poverty he saw.
In 1949 and again in 1950 Dobell went to New Guinea as part of his recovery. There observed the human form in a new way. A group of young men thatching a roof reminded him of the figures on the Elgin Marbles from the top of the Parthenon.
I thought this final version places the young men in a space between heaven and earth. With the roof poles appearing as rays of light beaming down from on high. It reminded me a little of William Blake’s work.
His album in 1960 contains many line drawings of the human form, by this time he was interested in Modern Art and the works of Henry Moore.
The second exhibition, Dobell’s Circle includes works by many of the Sydney artists of the 1940’s. It reminded me a little too much of the pictures in my High School art books. For some reason I find it hard to really like this period of Australian art, or maybe it is just my cultural prejudice against that city.
I have been to a number of exhibitions over the last few months, and really should do a couple of posts about them too.