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Sir William Dobell was born in Newcastle, NSW, in 1899. His studied art at Julian Ashton's School in Sydney (1924-29), the Slade School in London (1929), The Hague, Holland (1930) and undertook independent study for several years between 1931 and 1939.
In 1943, Dobell's work of Joshua Smith, Portrait of an artist, was awarded the prestigious Archibald Prize. The prize was contested in 1944 by two unsuccessful artists who thought the work to be a caricature of the sitter and not worthy of portraiture prize status. A lawsuit was brought against Dobell and the Gallery's Board of Trustees in the Supreme Court of New South Wales. The award was upheld but the ordeal left Dobell emotionally disturbed and in 1945 he retreated to Wangi Wangi on Lake Macquarie, where he began to paint landscapes. Dobell did not like media attention or fame and the courtcase nearly destroyed his potential as an artist.
Dobell was also awarded the Society of Artists Travelling Scholarship (1929), the State Theatre Art Quest (1929), two further Archibald Prizes (1948 for the painting of artist Margaret Olley and again in 1959 for a portrait of Dr E. G. MacMahon), the Wynne Prize (1948), the Australian Women's Weekly Portrait Prize (1957), the Britannica Australia award (1964). In 1964, Dobell exhibited in a major retrospective at the Art Gallery of New South Wales and the first monograph of his work was written by James Gleeson.
Dobell was awarded an Order of the British Empire in 1965 and was Knighted in 1966.
Savill Galleries has been dealing in significant William Dobell paintings since inception in 1987 and will consider the purchase of authentic Dobell works held in private and public collection.