In post-war Australia, William Dobell was a household name. But the most famous artist in the land was a broken man. His Archibald Prize-winning portrait of Joshua Smith was the subject of a sensational legal case, challenging not only Dobell’s right to the prize, but the very idea of art itself.
Dobell won the legal battle but lost so much else. His health was shattered, his desire to paint was wiped out, and his zest for life had been dulled. He had to get away.
Only 120 kilometres north of Sydney, Wangi Wangi is far removed from big city life. Dobell had moved to Wangi to escape fame, but in that beguiling little place he found community and friendship, and rediscovered the passion to paint – and the joy of life.
Through years of research and interviews with Dobell’s friends and longtime locals, acclaimed author and former Wangi resident Scott Bevan discovered how the village protected the artist, cared and posed for him, drank and partied with him. Wangi loved him as one of their own. To the world, he was Sir William Dobell, acclaimed artist, but to Wangi, he was simply Bill.
From author and journalist Scott Bevan, this is the story of one of Australia’s greatest artists. It explores how ambition and talent took a working class boy a long way in the world, and how the reaction to one painting almost destroyed him. It’s also a celebration of community, and how one man finally discovers where he belongs – in the unlikeliest of places.
Scott Bevan is an author, journalist and playwright. He has worked extensively as a producer and reporter for the ABC, Nine Network Australia and National Geographic Television and Film. Like Dobell, he was born in Newcastle and has lived in Wangi Wangi. Unlike Dobell, Scott can’t paint. He currently co-hosts the ABC News 24 evening program and lives in Sydney.
He is the author of three critically acclaimed books: The Hunter, Battle Lines: Australian Artists at War and Water From The Moon: A Biography of John Fawcett. His documentary work includes Oll: The Life & Art of Margaret Olley and The Hunter.
“a rare understanding of how an artist’s mind works, and Dobell’s creative process” – Wendy Sharpe, artist