Forging the Nation - Federation: the First 20 years
Will Dyson 1880 - 1938
Will Dyson was born near Ballarat in 1880. He studied at George Coates' studio in 1896, and by 1902 he was a regular contributor to the Melbourne Bulletin.
Although Dyson's drawings and articles were frequently published it was inevitable that he, like many of his contemporaries, felt the attraction of a broader cultural arena in which to develop his skills. He arrived in London in 1909 where he worked with the Daily Herald and the New Age, achieving a highly successful career with his cartoons.
Dyson's nationalistic feelings concerning Australia's involvement in the war led him to apply to cross to France to record the activities of the Australian soldiers. Eventually permission was granted. His intention was to volunteer his services " to interpret in a series of drawings, for national preservation, the sentiments and special Australian characteristics of our army".
Dyson arrived in France in December 1916. He remained there unpaid for six months until approval was granted for appointing official artists. Dyson was deeply moved by the actions of his countrymen and by the time of his official appointment, he had produced many drawings expressing the men's experiences at the front and in the camps. He portrayed the soldiers and villagers with great empathy, depicting their despair and exhaustion and the Australian sardonic humour. Dyson's initiative played a significant role in the formation of the Australian Official War Artists program.