William Dobell | Australia 1899-1970 | The Cypriot 1940 | Oil on canvas | 123.3 x 123.3cm | Gift of the Godfrey Rivers Trust through Miss Daphne Mayo 1943 | Collection: Queensland Art Gallery | © William Dobell 1940. Licensed by Viscopy, Sydney, 2010
The Cypriot 1940
William Dobell was renowned for his incisive portraits, and won the Archibald Prize for portraiture three times (1943, 1948 and 1959). He often embellished aspects of his sitter's appearance in order to draw out their most distinctive traits.
This is true of his portrait of Aegus Gabrielides, the young man who regards us with indifference in The Cypriot 1940. Gabrielides was a Greek waiter who worked in the London cafe frequented by Dobell in the 1930s. While Dobell's early sketches portray an unassuming figure, the finished painting presents a far more imposing character.
When painting a portrait, Dobell usually completed a series of pencil sketches in the sitter's presence, seeking to capture key characteristics. He would then embark on a number of small studies in gouache or oil, each reflecting a different mood.
Dobell would paint the final version of the portrait based on these preliminary sketches, selecting the most insightful as a guide, but working neither directly from it, nor his model.