Date of Production
oil on board
84.8 x 51.6 cm
Acknowledged as one of Australia's most important portrait
painters, Dobell studied at the Julian Ashton School in Sydney
before winning a scholarship that enabled him to travel to England
and Europe to further his studies in the 1930s.
Dobell won the Archibald Prize in 1943 for his portrait of
Joshua Smith. A celebrated court case ensued after a disgruntled
competitor alleged that Dobell's work was not a portrait but a
caricature. The decision in favour of Dobell's win did more than
any other event to publicise the cause of modernist art in
Australia. This portrait of Johnny Russell, painted 12 years after
that landmark event, is yet another example of Dobell's ability to
expose the inner realities of the subject.
In this portrait Dobell has not only captured the subject's
quizzical expression but he has also elongated the hands, arms,
chest and neck to enhance the sitter's adolescent awkwardness.