William Dobell

Sydney Harbour Bridge, 1941


Australian and International Art

24 May 2022

Lot 23

Best known for his incisive portraiture, Dobell also painted the most iconic architectural landmark of Sydney. Officially opened in 1932, the bridge represented the hopes and dreams of a nation almost broken by participation in the First World War before suffering a prolonged economic hardship throughout the thirties. By the time this work was painted, Australia was committed to another overseas war with higher stakes due to the possibility of being directly attacked when Japan expanded its military influence across the Pacific. In line with patriotism of the time, Dobell's bridge is captured from a low angle, reinforcing the grandeur and heroicism which could be achieved through a participation of many. At the same time there's something eerie and menacing in the ghostly illumination which emphasises the darker depths of water below. It's likely Dobell intended to express this duality within the Australian psyche of the time. Viewed from a contemporary perspective, it doesn't necessarily account for the renewed diversity and complex divisions within Australian society. His 1941 painting also needs to be imagined before an explosion of imagery and reproduction now considered fascile or kitsch. While modest in its scale and subtle in it's ambition, Dobell did capture the mood of a brief yet important moment in Australian history. Auction estimate AU $15,000 - $25,000.

Fred Williams    Lysterfield Paddock No. 1, 1973

Deutscher and Hackett
Important Australian + International Fine Artworks
4 May 2022