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© 2018 National Art School 

The Dobell Drawing Prize is a new biennial prize and exhibition presented by the National Art School in association with the Sir William Dobell Art Foundation. The Prize is an open call to all artists and aims to explore the enduring importance of drawing and the breadth and dynamism of contemporary approaches to drawing.


The exhibition showcases the finalists’ artworks across a broad range of media that acknowledges the foundational principals of drawing, while also encouraging challenging and expansive approaches to drawing. Submissions are invited for artworks on paper, but may also include wall drawings and larger-scale works and works utilising electronic media.


National Art School envisions the Prize as a platform for the celebration and examination of current drawing practices. The Prize builds on the energy of both emerging artists who make art through drawing, while also celebrating innovation and technical skill of experienced artists.


A drawing symposium, workshops and a range of artist talks will be held in conjunction with the Prize and exhibition, positioning the National Art School and Sydney at the core of contemporary drawing, research and the exploration of ideas.  Drawing continues to be central to the National Art School’s curriculum, and the opportunity to present and reflect the many facets of contemporary drawing offers artists another forum to explore the dynamic medium of drawing.


The new Dobell Drawing Prize is an acquisitive art award that runs in alternative years to the Dobell Australian Drawing Biennial at the Art Gallery of New South Wales, affirming the Dobell Foundation’s commitment to continuing the development of drawing as a medium in its own right, and a fundamental element of the visual arts.


The Sir William Dobell Art Foundation was formed in 1971 from the artist’s bequest with instructions that a Foundation be established for the benefit and promotion of art in NSW." The Foundation has sponsored a wide variety of projects since then, establishing art exhibitions, funding publications and acquisitions, supporting educational projects, art schools and scholarships and has made possible major public art commissions.


Art Director of The Sir William Dobell Art Foundation Paula Latos-Valier states:

“The Dobell Drawing Prize has many great attributes – it is very democratic in that any artist can enter and there are no restrictions to subject matter or medium. This freedom from curatorial constraint is a distinguishing feature. The Prize has always championed the idea of peer group assessment by inviting respected practicing artists to select the finalists and determine the prize-winner. Lastly, being an acquisitive prize means that the winning work goes into a public collection and leaves a tangible legacy for future generations.  The Foundation is excited that this will continue in this new partnership with NAS.”


The new Dobell Drawing Prize runs in alternative years to the Dobell Australian Drawing Biennial at the Art Gallery of New South Wales, affirming the Sir William Dobell Art Foundation’s commitment to continuing the development of drawing as a medium in its own right, and a fundamental element of the visual arts.


With origins that can be traced back to 1873, the National Art School is a leading Australian visual arts institution with a rich tradition of artistic practice and generations of world-renowned alumni.

NAS offers a select number of full time programs: a Bachelor of Fine Art and Master of Fine Art, and for the community, a comprehensive range of part-time and intensive short courses.

NAS is a practitioner’s art school. We are committed to teaching the vital practical skills that form the foundation of a career in the visual arts. Students have access to over 80 eminent practising artists and art historians, who lecture, lead by example and provide intensive studio-based tuition. It is through this model that we continue to produce award-winning, distinguished graduates.

Since 1922 we have occupied the old Darlinghurst gaol, an unrivalled sandstone campus that is both a colonial site of immense historical significance and a working school – with authentic artist studios, workshops, the NAS Gallery, specialist fine art Library and the famed Cell Block Theatre.


William Dobell was born in Newcastle, NSW, on 24 September, 1899. He moved to Sydney in 1924 to study at the Julian Ashton Art School, where he met many artists who would later teach at the National Art School. In 1929 he won the Society of Artists Travelling Scholarship, and lived in London for ten years, painting and studying at the Slade School of Fine Art. When his scholarship ran out after three years, he supported himself by producing posters and illustrations for magazines, acting as an extra in films, and working with fellow Australian artists decorating the Empire Exhibition in Glasgow in 1937.

On his return to Sydney in 1939, Dobell’s friend Douglas Dundas offered him a part-time teaching position at East Sydney Technical College (the National Art School). At first he taught drawing from nature, costume drawing, and painting, and became highly respected as the life master, teaching life drawing in the studios on the top floor of building 16.

Although a reserved and unassuming man, William Dobell had a profound effect on his National Art School students. Many describe his love for drawing, and his outstanding draughtsmanship was apparent when he demonstrated drawing in his classes.

He taught at the NAS until 1941, when he left to work as a camouflage artist during WW2. After the war, Dobell occasionally filled in as a lecturer at the NAS, teaching the students studying there under the Commonwealth Reconstruction Training Scheme.

In 1943 Dobell won the Archibald Prize, Australia's principal award for portraiture, for a painting of fellow artist, former NAS student Joshua Smith. The award was immediately challenged on the grounds that Dobell's entry showed a degree of distortion, thought to be a caricature rather than a true portrait, but the court upheld the judging panel's decision. Resultant newspaper publicity greatly expanded interest in Dobell's work, but as a result of the controversy Dobell withdrew to Wangi Wangi, a small coastal town north of Sydney, where he set up a studio. He won the Archibald Prize twice more, in 1948 with a portrait of former NAS student Margaret Olley, and in 1959 with a portrait of Dr Edward McMahon.  He continued to draw all his life, filling sketchbooks and recording the life and people of Wangi Wangi. He was knighted in 1966 and died in Wangi Wangi on 14 May, 1970.