THOUGHTFUL STUDY IN PROGRESSION
cote, whose Russell Drysdale: Defining the Modern Australian Landscape was held at the same museum in 2013 and reviewed in this column at the time, and whose book Inside the Art Market: Australia’s Galleries 1956-76 I also discussed in these pages a few months ago. Heathcote will be offering his own thoughts on the works in the exhibition in a lecture to be held at TarraWarra on July 22.
As Heathcote points out, many of these drawings have never been seen before, partly because of a lack of scholarly interest in the subject and partly because less industrious curators tend to reproduce or include in exhibitions works that have already been shown before and are already reproduced in catalogues.
The portrait of Smith is included in the exhibition and naturally attracts our attention, but it is hard to draw any conclusions from it about its aesthetic quality because — as though some fate hung over this work — it was largely destroyed by a fire at Carrick Hill in Adelaide in 1958 and not restored or, rather, repainted until 1972, after Dobell’s death. Even from photographs it is easy to see that the present version falls far short of the subtlety of the original.
Maimed as it is, the picture has been included partly for its fame and partly for the sake of the beautiful drawings shown with it. In these it is clear that Dobell has looked very closely and carefully at his friend’s features, and that the degree of distortion that he introduced into
Mr Joshua Smith (1943), left, and Study for Mr Joshua Smith (c. 1943), above; Study for Helena Rubenstein (1960), below