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Australian art

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Self portrait



William Dobell

Australia, England

24 Sep 1899 - 13 May 1970


This self portrait was painted three years after William Dobell arrived in London as recipient of the 1929 New South Wales Society of Artists Travelling Art Scholarship. Prior to painting this work, Dobell had visited Holland and studied
Rembrandt and Van Gogh in 1930, and travelled to Belgium to study the work of the Dutch masters in 1931.

'Self portrait' represents a daring act of self-exposure. Its significance lies in Dobell’s successful attempt to define the self without glamour, bravado or artifice. Though small in size, this portrait has an intensity of presence. It was produced during a period when the impoverished artist often painted on small scraps of panel or strawboard.




Media category


Materials used

oil on wood panel


35.0 x 27.0 cm board; 54.0 x 46.0 x 6.0 cm frame

Signature & date

Signed and dated l.l. corner, white oil "WILLIAM DOBELL 1932".


Purchased with assistance from the Trustees of the Sir William Dobell Art Foundation 1985

Accession number


Artist information

William Dobell

Artist profile

Works in the collection


Shown in 8 exhibitions

Exhibition history

Referenced in 19 publications


Brian Adams, Portrait of an artist: A biography of William Dobell, Melbourne, 1983, 64 (illus.).

Scott Bevan, Bill: the life of William Dobell, Cammeray, 2014, n.pag.. colour illustration in between pp 244-245

Helen Campbell, Australian art: in the Art Gallery of New South Wales, 'Out of Sydney: city and hinterlands', pg. 185-186, Sydney, 2000, 187 (colour illus.), 300.

Mary Eagle, Australian Modern Painting Between the Wars 1914-1939, 'Sydney divided', pg. 138-165, Sydney, 1989, 150, 151 (colour illus.). plate no. 112

Deborah Edwards, Look, 'William Dobell's Self-portrait', pg. 17, Heidelberg, Sep 1986, 17 (illus.).

Anne Gray, Face: Australian portraits 1880-1960, Canberra, 2010, 144 (colour illus.).

Jane Hylton, William Dobell: portraits in context, 'Image of contention', pg. 10-20, Kent Town, 2003, 2 (colour illus.), 14, 19, 22, 41 (colour illus.).

Margaret Meagher (Editor), State of the arts, 'William Dobell 1899-1970 The Painter's Progress', Sydney, Dec 1996-Mar 1997, 7 (illus.).

Sam Neill, Celebrity choice: Sam Neill, Sydney, 1987, (colour illus.). catalogue entry; no catalogue entry; not paginated

Marcus O'Donnell (Editor), Outrage, Melbourne, Mar 1997, 3 (colour illus.), 36 (colour illus.), 37-39.

Barry Pearce, Australian painters of the twentieth century, 'William Dobell', pg. 76-87, Sydney, 2000, 79 (colour illus.).

Peter Raissis, William Dobell - the painter's progress, 'London: life and portraits', pg. 32-72, Sydney, 1997, 24, 32, 33 (colour illus.), 144. 4a

Meryl Ryan, Well connected: Dobell and company, Lake Macquarie, 2001, front cover brochure insert (illus.), inside brochure insert (illus.). 1; brochure insert not paginated

Andrew Sayers, To look within: self portraits in Australia, 'The artist's self-portrait in Australia', pg. 6-33, Brisbane, 2004, 6 (colour illus., detail), 24, 25 (colour illus.).

Jill Sykes (Editor), Look, Sydney, Apr 2007, 43 (colour illus.).

Wendy Symonds (Editor), Look, Heidelberg, Feb 1997, 13 (colour illus.).

Judith White, Australian art collector, 'Yours sincerely: William Dobell', pg. 56-59, Sydney, Apr 2000-Jun 2000, 59.

Author Unknown, The Art of William Dobell, Sydney, 1946, 18, 86 (illus.).

Author Unknown, William Dobell: the painters progress, Sydney, 1997, cover (illus.).