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Dobell, drawing, the prize and the biennial

The Dobell Australian Drawing Collection has its roots in the Dobell Prize for Drawing at the Art Gallery of NSW.

Held annually from 1993 to 2012, this open competition aimed to encourage excellence in drawing and draughtsmanship among Australian artists. It was initiated by the trustees of the Sir William Dobell Art Foundation (established from the estate of renowned Australian artist William Dobell), who each year invited a guest – often an artist – to be the judge. The winning work automatically became part of the Gallery’s collection, and over the years a small selection of finalist works were also acquired.

In 2014, the Gallery launched a new initiative with the Sir William Dobell Art Foundation – the Dobell Australian Drawing Biennial. Rather than an open competition, this is a curated exhibition.

Questions and activities

  • Research the artist and benefactor William Dobell and create a timeline of important events in his life and career. Imagine interviewing Dobell for a talk show. Role-play the interview in class, preparing questions and answers for the host and the artist.
  • Dobell drew quick sketches from life, often from several angles to capture the subject. View drawings by Dobell in the Gallery collection. Describe the types of lines he used and imagine the speed at which he sketched. Create a series of drawings inspired by his work.
  • According to James Gleeson, artist and Sir William Dobell Art Foundation director, even Dobell’s paintings 'were usually “drawn” in oils, for he preferred to use the brush like a pencil, building up the forms from an accumulation of lines’. View paintings by Dobell in the Gallery collection. Do you agree with Gleeson’s comment? Paint a portrait of a friend using a similar approach to Dobell’s.

Find out more

Use our prizes database to find out more on the following topics: