Menzies Art Brands



Occupying a unique position within the fabric of Australian art history, Robert Dickerson is one of our most celebrated figurative painters. Dickerson first rose to nationwide prominence as a member of the Antipodeans, alongside his contemporaries John Brack (1920-1999), Charles Blackman (1928-2018), Arthur Boyd (1920-1999), David Boyd (1924-2011), Clifton Pugh (1924 - 1990), John Perceval (1923 - 2000) and historian Bernard Smith (1916 - 2011), who first showed as a group in 1959 at the Victorian Artists Society in Melbourne. The Antipodeans formed as a direct response to the growing emergence of abstract art with the common intention of solidifying the importance of artworks that retained strong references to the real world and the human figure1 all characteristics that define Dickersons work. 

Girl in the Paddock is set within the landscape of the Shoalhaven region south of Sydney, where Dickerson spent a twelve-month artists residence at Arthur Boyds studio in Bundanon, during the creation of his own house and studio in Nowra. The time spent at Bundanon would inspire a significant body of work based on the Shoalhaven landscape and its people.

Jennifer Dickerson notes that the artist frequently walked into the city of Sydney from his Woollahra studio where they resided from 1979 to 1989 to look at buildings, shadows and people on the street who became subjects for subsequent work, often featuring a lone figure.2 The isolated figure has become a hallmark of Dickersons art. Often thought to portray his own loneliness and anxiety, Dickerson himself refutes this interpretation: just because I paint a single figure doesnt mean that person is lonely.3

In the present work, Dickerson transplants the formal strategies of his earlier, urban paintings to a rural Shoalhaven setting. Girl in the Paddock is typical of a major work by Dickerson, showing a lone figure immersed within the landscape.  The open expanse of the South Coast landscape has become an integral part of this work, forming a seamless backdrop. The sheer scale of the painting mimics the space in which Dickerson worked, only made possible by residing at Bundanon. The perfectly blended and restrained colour palette is replicated in the clothing of the lone girl, allowing her to feel at one with her environment.  Ahead of an exhibition to mark his 75th birthday in 1999, Dickerson remarked that Just like children of the inner city, the children of the Shoalhaven are seemingly on a permanent holiday. The long days and clear nights remind me of my own childhood.4 Dickersons ability to capture a swift pensive moment of a child compounds his emotional intelligence as an artist and skill at capturing the inner feelings of his subjects, often reflecting back on his own life experience to do so.

Dickersons style can not only be defined by the angles and sharp lines that audiences have come to recognise as a signature of his work, but also his ability to paint with a stark, raw clarity that captures fleeting moments of everyday experience. Dickersons ability to authentically convey aspects of ordinary life continues to resonate with audiences today.  


1. Clark, D., Antipodeans: Challenge and Response in Australian Art 1955 1965 in Art on View, issue 20, National Gallery of Australia, Canberra, 1999, pp.4-8
2. Dickerson, J., Robert Dickerson: Against the Tide, Pandanus Press, Brisbane, 1994, p.110
3. Op cit., Dickerson, J., p.56
4. Robert Dickerson: Shoalhaven Paintings, 75th Birthday Exhibition [exhibition catalogue], Rex Irwin Art Dealer, Sydney, 1999

Clementine Retallack, BA



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