Robert Dickerson

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Robert Dickerson
Born(1924-03-30)30 March 1924
Hurstville, New South Wales, Australia
Died 18 October 2015(2015-10-18) (aged 91)
Nowra, New South Wales, Australia
Nationality Australian
Style Chiaroscuro figurativism
Movement Antipodeans

Robert Henry Dickerson AO (30 March 1924 – 18 October 2015) was an Australian figurative painter and former member of the Antipodeans group of artists. Dickerson is one of Australia's most recognised figurative artists and one of a generation of influential artists who include Ray Crooke, Charles Blackman, Laurence Hope, Margaret Olley and Inge King.

Painting practice of applying paint, pigment, color or other medium to a surface

Painting is the practice of applying paint, pigment, color or other medium to a solid surface. The medium is commonly applied to the base with a brush, but other implements, such as knives, sponges, and airbrushes, can be used. The final work is also called a painting.

Antipodeans Australian art group

The Antipodeans were a group of Australian modern artists who asserted the importance of figurative art, and protested against abstract expressionism. They staged a single exhibition in Melbourne during August 1959.

Ray Austin Crooke was an Australian artist known for his landscapes. He won the Archibald Prize in 1969 with a portrait of George Johnston.


Professional artist

Dickerson was a self-taught artist who refused to go to art school. His art has been described as angular and high contrast chiaroscuro and executed in a range of materials including paint, pastels, charcoals and other graphic media. [1]

Chiaroscuro use of strong contrasts between light and dark, usually bold contrasts affecting a whole composition in art

Chiaroscuro, in art, is the use of strong contrasts between light and dark, usually bold contrasts affecting a whole composition. It is also a technical term used by artists and art historians for the use of contrasts of light to achieve a sense of volume in modelling three-dimensional objects and figures. Similar effects in cinema and photography also are called chiaroscuro.

The inspiration for his art came from everyday life and he drew on the themes of loneliness, vulnerability and isolation. [2] Lone characters with long noses and whimsical, often averted eyes featured heavily of his work. He said it is "the same style I've always used", and did not intend to change it. [3]

In November 1955, art patron John Reed published an article in Ern Malley's Journal (Vol 2) which described Dickerson's work as containing "a new sense of beauty, a new truth". But his break as a professional artist came in 1954 when the National Gallery of Victoria purchased his work Man Asleep On The Steps. In 1959 he joined Charles Blackman, David Boyd, John Brack, Bernard Smith, Arthur Boyd and Clifton Pugh to form the Antipodeans—a group of figurative artists making a statement opposing abstractionism in their day. According to the former deputy director of the National Gallery of Victoria, Frances Lindsay, members of this group continue to be 'productive and innovative after many decades of practice. [3]

John Harford Reed was an Australian art editor and patron, notable for supporting and collecting of Australian art and culture with his wife Sunday Reed.

National Gallery of Victoria Art museum in Melbourne, Australia

The National Gallery of Victoria, popularly known as the NGV, is an art museum in Melbourne, Victoria, Australia. Founded in 1861, it is Australia's oldest, largest and most visited art museum.

Arthur Boyd Australian painter

Arthur Merric Bloomfield Boyd was a leading Australian painter of the late 20th century. Boyd's work ranges from impressionist renderings of Australian landscape to starkly expressionist figuration, and many canvases feature both. Several famous works set Biblical stories against the Australian landscape, such as The Expulsion (1947–48), now at the Art Gallery of New South Wales. Having a strong social conscience, Boyd's work deals with humanitarian issues and universal themes of love, loss and shame.

Early life

Robert Dickerson was born in 1924 and grew up in Sydney during the 1930s Depression era. By the time he was 14 he was working in a factory while he trained as a boxer. He toured for four years with the Jimmy Sharman Boxing Troupe. "Boxing was purely about money. I was earning 16 shillings (A$1.60) working a 44-hour week and could make two to five pounds (A$4 to A$10) if I won a fight. Minutes in the ring seemed like years, but you cope with what you have to and we needed the money—badly." [2]

Great Depression 20th-century worldwide economic depression

The Great Depression was a severe worldwide economic depression that took place mostly during the 1930s, beginning in the United States. The timing of the Great Depression varied across nations; in most countries it started in 1929 and lasted until the late-1930s. It was the longest, deepest, and most widespread depression of the 20th century. In the 21st century, the Great Depression is commonly used as an example of how intensely the world's economy can decline.

Jimmy Sharman Australian rugby league player

James "Jimmy" Sharman was an Australian boxing troupe and entertainment impresario. His son also worked with him and taking over from as father in 1955, and becoming a professional rugby league footballer.

Dickerson took up drawing at the age of five, mainly aeroplanes and warships. Later the people in streetscapes became his subject matter. He joined the Royal Australian Air Force as a guard and continued to sketch in his spare time. Inspired by Somerset Maugham's novel The Moon and Sixpence he spent the time painting island children using tent canvas and camouflage paint. [3]

Royal Australian Air Force Air warfare branch of Australias armed forces

The Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF), formed March 1921, is the aerial warfare branch of the Australian Defence Force (ADF). It operates the majority of the ADF's fixed wing aircraft, although both the Australian Army and Royal Australian Navy also operate aircraft in various roles. It directly continues the traditions of the Australian Flying Corps (AFC), formed on 22 October 1912. The RAAF provides support across a spectrum of operations such as air superiority, precision strikes, intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance, air mobility, space surveillance, and humanitarian support.

W. Somerset Maugham British playwright, novelist, short story writer

William Somerset Maugham, CH, better known as W. Somerset Maugham, was a British playwright, novelist and short story writer. He was among the most popular writers of his era and reputedly the highest-paid author during the 1930s.

<i>The Moon and Sixpence</i> 1919 novel by W Somerset Maugham

The Moon and Sixpence is a novel by W. Somerset Maugham first published in April 15th, 1919. It is told in episodic form by a first-person narrator, in a series of glimpses into the mind and soul of the central character Charles Strickland, a middle-aged English stockbroker, who abandons his wife and children abruptly to pursue his desire to become an artist. The story is in part based on the life of the painter Paul Gauguin.

Back in Australia he resumed a life of poverty. By the age of 30, he was married with three small children. He shovelled coal to provide for the family, painting at weekends. Later the family lived in a caravan. He continued to find time to paint and, by the end of the 1950s, his work was being noticed. [3]

He turned professional at 35 when he won £ 100 (equivalent to £2,213in 2016) in the 1957 Australian Women's Weekly fridge decorating competition. A small fortune then, the prize allowed him to buy more art materials and extend his techniques. Until then he had used whatever materials were available.

In the mid-1960s Dickerson remarried, had two more children and, despite a drinking problem, continued to paint. The marriage lasted eight years, with three more years fighting for custody of their children. He moved to Brisbane, showing at Johnstone Gallery, travelled, exhibited—at times in London, returned to Sydney and finally settled at Nowra, New South Wales.

In 2013 e was awarded an AO for his outstanding contribution to the visual arts and community service to the many charities he supported.

He painted full-time, bred race horses, and lived with his third wife Jennifer, who was also his business manager. [3] His passion for breeding and racing horses was recognised when he was appointed artist-in-residence at Moonee Valley Racing Club for the 2001–02 season. [2] He had several children and stepchildren, 17 grandchildren and five great-grandchildren. [3] He died of cancer on 18 October 2015. [4]

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