Menzies Art Brands



Dickerson was in his mid-twenties when he painted The Literates, soon after his service in the Royal Australian Air Force in Darwin and Southeast Asia during the Second World War. After the war ended, Dickerson spent about a year on Morotai Island in Indonesia, waiting to be demobilised, where he painted the local children: They used to pose for me and sit playing while I drew them.1 Most of these works were lost, as Dickerson did not bring them back to Australia, not having room for art in his kit bag.

In post-war Sydney Dickerson began painting as a vocation, and in 1949 he proposed to his first wife, Innis Sailes, and their first child was born the following year. The present work may be a recollection of the playful children on Morotai, and also a reflection of his own lifes trajectory at this point. In his own words, That feeling about kids persisted in my work because I felt strongly about children of the whole bloody world2 This is apparent not only in the present work, but in his recurrent depictions of children throughout his oeuvre, including at lots 109 and 110 in this catalogue.  

1. Robert Dickerson, quoted in Dickerson, J., Robert Dickerson: Against the Tide, Pandanus Press, Brisbane, 1994, p.32
2. Robert Dickerson, quoted in Thomas, L., The Australian, 11 January 1969

Asta Cameron

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