Litigation, Art and Therapeutic Jurisprudence: The Travails of William Dobell

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The extraordinary litigation in 1944 that enveloped Sir William Dobell, one of Australia's best known artists, ostensibly addressed whether his painting of a fellow artist, Joshua Smith, constituted a portrait or a caricature and thus whether it qualified for the prestigious Archibald Prize. However, there was much more to the litigation than a clash between modernism and traditionalism in portraiture. It constituted an archetypal example of the ways in which litigation can have counter-therapeutic effects for all who are party to it unless suitable prophylactic measures are taken or at least strategies are exercised to reduce its toxicity.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)161-171
Number of pages11
JournalPsychiatry, Psychology & Law
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 4 Mar 2015
Externally publishedYes


  • art
  • counter-therapeutic effects
  • litigation
  • psychiatric harm
  • therapeutic jurisprudence

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