Robert Dickerson is one of Australia’s most recognised and senior figurative painters, and was a prominent member of the Antipodeans art group, formed in the late 1950s as a protest against the growing popularity of abstract expressionism.
A self-taught artist, Robert Dickerson refused to go to art school as a youth, leaving his education at fourteen and working in factories and other odd jobs, at one point touring with the famous Jimmy Sharman Boxing Troupe as a professional boxer.
It was during his thirties whilst living in a caravan with his wife and three children that he began painting seriously in his spare time, using the male bathroom at the factory in which he worked as his studio on the weekends. His breakthrough into the art world came in 1954 when the National Gallery of Victoria purchased his piece Man Asleep on the Steps. One year later, the National Gallery bought another painting, Smoko, and Dickerson became more and more involved in Australia’s fledgling, yet rapidly evolving, art scene.
His move to professional painter and the turning point in his career came in 1957 when he won an Australian Women’s Weekly fridge decorating competition. The prize being 100 pounds, he was able to purchase a supply of art materials allowing him to experiment with new techniques and increase his production.
Dickerson depicts the hardships of life in his artworks with firsthand knowledge – up until his mid-thirties, he lived a life of poverty and the loneliness and feelings of vulnerability he experienced are reflected in his often provocative paintings.
With his extremely unique, self-developed style, Dickerson paints individual visages; singular characters who are often dejected, destitute and alone. His desire to paint people and situations from everyday life has resulted in a great collection of honest, socially realist works including one of his most emotional pieces, Man at Culburra Beach. With its emotionally charged, gloomy landscape, this piece depicts the loneliness of a solitary elderly man at the end of his days.
It is his emotional intelligence that allows Dickerson to deeply affect his audience, winning him extensive representation in many prominent Australian collections with both his paintings and charcoal and pastel drawings. His artworks often fetch six-figure prices at auction and he continues to paint and sketch full-time from his home in Nowra, New South Wales.
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