Artist's Biography

Born in Hurstville, New South Wales in 1924, Robert Dickerson is a one of Australia best -known figurative painters and works in acrylic, oil, pastel and charcoal.


No formal art training. Left school at fourteen and begun to educate himself. Joined a professional boxing group aged sixteen and toured Australia for two years until the outbreak of World War II when he joined the RAAF.  So far, painting was something he fitted in when time permitted but in the jungles of Borneo after the war was over, he suddenly found a lot of spare time when waiting to be demobilised.  At this stage, he really began to draw and paint.

On his return to Australia, he took up factory and labouring jobs and for the next ten years mostly painted at weekends.  Dickerson sold his first painting to the National Gallery of Victoria in 1956 and three years later became a full time artist.  He is at his best as a painter of people, in all situations and in all walks of life. Dickerson’s works are known for their haunting human quality and to explain this trait in his work, Dickerson has said “Just because I paint a single figure, it doesn’t mean that the person is lonely”; and “I try to capture the sense of the work the person is doing, or the city or the place they live in … “.

Dickerson visited the United Kingdom and Europe 1972-73.

In 2013, Robert Dickerson was awarded an officer in the general division of the Order of Australia in recognition of his contributions to art and philanthropy, the National Gallery of Australia, Opera Australia and Newcastle Hospital beneficiaries of his generosity.

Robert Dickerson passed away on 18 October 2015, aged 91.


His first significant exhibition was at the Museum of Modern Art, Melbourne 1956. This was followed by many one-man shows in Melbourne and Brisbane and several at Holdsworth Galleries, Sydney.  His work has been included in many overseas exhibitions including the Whitechapel and the Tate Galleries in London; The “Australian Painters 1964-66” (Mertz Collection), Corcoran Gallery, Washington DC USA 1967; The Sao Paulo Biennale, Brazil and a special exhibition at Qantas House, London in 1973.  Dickerson also participated in the Adelaide Festival of Arts 1970 and showed with John Coburn at Marcia Hill Galleries, Canberra 1981.  His Retrospective exhibition 1949-1983 was shown at Holdsworth Galleries 1983; solo show Masterpiece Gallery, Hobart Tasmania 1983; Barry Stern 1985; Holdsworth 1988.


Clint Prize 1954; Tumut Prize 1959; Runner-up in the Blake Prize competition 1965; shared Grand Prize in Mirror-Waratah Competition 1966; Gold Coast Prize, Queensland 1975.


The National Collection, Canberra; Mertz Collection USA; Australian state and provincial galleries; Melbourne University collection; Australian National University Collection, Canberra; Museum of Modern Art & Design, Melbourne; Commonwealth Collection, Metropolitan Museum, New York and many private collections in Australia and overseas.


Modern Australian Art, Museum of Modern Art, Melbourne 1958; Modern Australian Painting and Sculpture, Bonython, Adelaide 1960; Two Hundred Years Australian Painting, Bay Books, Sydney 1971; Modern Australian Painting, Sun Books, Melbourne 1969; The Art of Australia, Robert Hughes; The Australian Painters 1964-66 (Mertz Collection), Griffin Press, Adelaide 1966; Modern Painters 1931-70, James Gleeson, Lansdowne 1971; Australian Painting 1799-1970, Bernard Smith, Oxford University Press 1974; Encyclopaedia of Australian Art, Hutchinson, Melbourne 1977.