Left: Antonio Dattilo-Rubbo Self portrait 1924, oil on canvas, 90.5 × 70.5 cm, Art Gallery of NSW, gift of the artist 1939 © Estate of Antonio Dattilo-Rubbo. Middle: Antonio Dattilo-Rubbo Study 1904, black and white pastel on grey paper, 41 × 33.5 cm, Art Gallery of New South Wales, Purchased 1904 © Estate of Antonio Dattilo-Rubbo. Right: Antonio Dattilo-Rubbo Betty (girl in red bonnet) 1917, oil on canvas, 46.0 × 36.5 cm, Manly Art Gallery and Museum, Purchased 1980 © Estate of Antonio Dattilo-Rubbo .
Italian-born Antonio Dattilo-Rubbo (1870-1955) is enshrined in Australian art history as the charismatic teacher and champion of the Sydney Moderns, who include Grace Cossington Smith, Roy de Maistre and Roland Wakelin.
The return of former pupil Norah Simpson from Europe in 1913 with reproductions of post-Impressionist masters such as Van Gogh, Gauguin and Cézanne, coupled with Dattilo-Rubbo’s enthusiasm for modern art, transformed his studio into the hub for Sydney’s avant-garde.
As an artist, Dattilo-Rubbo is best known for his social realist portraits of Sydney’s unconventional characters. His work is underpinned by strong draughtmanship and craftmanship acquired through academic training in Rome and Naples. However, the art of the Impressionists and post-Impressionists, which Dattilo-Rubbo championed, also filtered into his work.
This exhibition, with a focus on portraiture, pays homage to Dattilo-Rubbo through a selection of his paintings, watercolours and drawings, some loaned by the Manly Art Gallery, which he was instrumental in founding.