An image of The duchess disrobes

William Dobell

(Australia, England 24 Sep 1899 – 13 May 1970)

The duchess disrobes

20th & 21st c Australian art
Further information

Dobell's London years form the most significant period in his development as an artist, when he produced an outstanding group of works that witnessed the germination of his acute interest in human nature. Living in central London's Pimlico, surrounded by a rich milieu of characters, he was inspired to produce quickly-captured glimpses of life in the streets, cafes and parks.

"We'd go around everywhere; to the zoo on the free day ... and we'd sketch there, and then to the cheap coffee houses and we'd sketch the people sitting around ... I then got the idea of transposing those quick sketches into paintings".
William Dobell, 1963

His London period reached its peak in his inspirationally conceived, tiny comic masterpiece 'The duchess disrobes', the idea for which had its origins in his sketches of birds drying their wings at the London Zoo. It is one of a small number of extraordinary paintings in the tradition of English social caricaturists William Hogarth and Thomas Rowlandson.

Australian Art Department, AGNSW, 2001

oil on plywood
35.5 x 27.0 cm board; 54.0 x 45.4 x 6.2 cm frame
Signature & date

Signed l.r. corner, yellow oil "W.Dobell". Not dated.

Purchased with assistance from the Trustees of the Sir William Dobell Art Foundation 1987
Accession number
© Courtesy Sir William Dobell Art Foundation