Johnny Russell, William Dobell
  • Artist
    William Dobell
  • Born
    1899
  • Died
    1970
  • Title
    Johnny Russell
  • Date of Production
    c.1955
  • Medium
    oil on board
  • Dimensions
    84.8 x 51.6 cm
  • Credit Details
    Purchased, 1956

William Dobell

Johnny Russell

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.