THOUGHT­FUL STUDY IN PRO­GRES­SION

The Weekend Australian - Review - - Visual Arts -

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

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