I'm a freelance writer based in Perth, Western Australia, who enjoys writing about the things I love: travel, nature-based activities, the arts, spirituality and creative, fun activities for children.
Published March 16th 2018
Visit the studio of one of Australia's most iconic artists
A gentle and unassuming genius, Sir William Dobell is widely regarded as one of Australia's most iconic artists. Born in Newcastle in 1899, Dobell returned to nearby Wangi Wangi in 1943 in order to regain his health and confidence after his controversial Archibald Prize win of the same year, with a portrait of fellow-artist Joshua Smith. It was here that he set up house with his older unmarried sister, Margaret, and established a studio, overlooking beautiful Lake Macquarie, where much of his latter body of work was completed. Aside from his regular travels, William Dobell lived in the house until his death there in 1970.
William Dobell was born in 1899, the son of a Newcastle builder. Although his artistic talent was identified at an early age, it wasn't until 1924 that he received formal training, when he enrolled in classes at Julian Ashton's prestigious Sydney Art School a few nights each week. After winning the Society of Artists travelling scholarship in 1929, at the age of thirty, William headed off to London to further refine his art, and remained there for around ten years. Returning to Australia, over the following decades Dobell's career skyrocketed and he won numerous awards including the coveted Archibald Prize on three occasions – 1943, 1948 and 1959 - and the reputation of being one of Australia's foremost and most brilliant artists.
Concerned that Dobell's personal and artistic legacy be preserved for future generations, shortly after his death in 1970 a group of local community members was formed, with the goal of raising enough money to purchase his former home, its furnishings and other memorabilia – and to create a museum and gallery. These days, Dobell House, as it is now known, is open to visitors, and provides the unique opportunity to leisurely wander through Sir William's beloved home, visit the studio where he worked, listen to various audio-visual presentations, and gain an insight into his life and times.
The signage and displays at Dobell House chronicle the artist's life and the milestones of his career in a poignant and very personal way, painting the picture of a shy and sensitive man who, in many ways, was more at home with the unassuming locals of Wangi Wangi than he was with the glamorous figures of Sydney's art world and high society. I especially enjoyed visiting the small one-room studio where Sir William painted many of his most well-known works - perched above the modest home, and reached by a narrow flight of wooden stairs. There, in Sir William's personal creative sanctuary, visitors can see reproductions of some of his paintings, as well as original furniture and other bits and pieces that he personally used. Like the rest of the house, the studio also features breathtaking views over Lake Macquarie. It's easy to see why he loved it there so much, and how its tranquil beauty inspired so much of his work.
Dobell House is situated at 47 Dobell Drive in Wangi Wangi, a picturesque hamlet situated upon a narrow peninsula on the western shore of Lake Macquarie. It's open on Saturdays, Sundays and public holidays, from 1pm until 4pm. Group visits are also warmly welcomed by appointment. To find out more, visit the Dobell House websitee email firstname.lastname@example.org or phone 02 4975 4115.