William Dobell – from window washer to knight of the realm

The file holding this portrait of the great Australian artist, Sir William Dobell, taken by Monte Luke studio on October 28, 1957 is simply marked “Bill Dobell.”

William Dobell (Monte Luke/Monte Luke Studio)

Dobell, who would not be knighted until almost a decade later in 1966, came from humble circumstances and as the seventh child of a Newcastle bricklayer was never one for pomp and ceremony. By the time this photograph was taken, he had won the Archibald Prize, the country’s leading portraiture award twice and would win it again in 1959. It was a long way from his first job at the age of 14 – washing windows on Newcastle’s main thoroughfare, Hunter Street.

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