Menzies Art Brands



Robert Dickerson was born and raised in the inner Sydney suburb of Hurstville. He left school at the age of fourteen to work in a factory and for a time was also a professional boxer. In 1940 he joined the RAAF and served in Darwin and the Islands north of Australia before returning to factory work. With the help of a friend who worked as a commercial artist, Dickerson embarked on a career as a painter, and by 1950 he was painting seriously.1

The directness and sincerity of Dickersons work is based on personal experience and reflects the struggles of a working mans life. As Robert Hughes noted, Dickersons work appeared without natural facility, and with a very limited means. Dickerson was self-taught as an artist and came to the profession with only the basic technical means and without extensive knowledge of art and its history. It is an uninhibited approach, unencumbered by the example of his predecessors, with an advanced sense of resourcefulness, a trait often associated with Australia, and in particular, Dickersons formative years and the product of honest hard work.

I try to paint something that will be different from all the rubbish everywhere. Everybody is trying to run away from facing certain issues. My work is a protest against that if you like; but I am not trying to prove something. I just paint what I feel like painting.2

Paddys Market depicts the market that serves inner Sydney, located at Haymarket. Dickerson places the figure of a market worker in the centre of his composition. The figure is isolated and absorbed in his work, and takes no interest in us, the audience. He makes no eye contact. Instead, the sense of solitude is emphasised using the functional and empty space in which he earns his living. Leaning on his trolley with one hand on his hip and one foot forward, his pose is simple and highly effective in communicating a moment of hesitation and contemplation. The pose, cleverly understated, yet easily recognisable, is natural, and the product of observation. Dickersons subject is the dignity of labour. The painting is unmistakeably of and by a worker.

Over a career spanning more than 65 years Dickerson was a tireless exhibitor. In 1954 the National Gallery of Victoria acquired his Man Asleep on the Steps, and in 1959 he became, together with John Brack (1920-1999), Charles Blackman (1928-2018), Arthur Boyd (1920-1999) and Clifton Pugh (1924-1990) a member of the Antipodeans, a group of artists protesting abstraction. By 2006 Dickerson had been the subject of more than 110 solo exhibitions. He continued to work up to his death in October 2015.


1. Hughes, R., The Art of Australia, Penguin, Melbourne, 1966, p.240
2. Robert Dickerson, as quoted in Featured Artist: Robert Dickerson, The Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney [accessed online]:

Tim Abdallah



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