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Will Dyson (1880–1938) was a brilliant and versatile artist, and much more besides. His prodigious talents struggled to find a niche in Australia, but he burst into prominence with cartoons of extraordinary vigour and resource on the London Daily Herald. These whole-page cartoons with wordy, witty captions were revered by workers and intellectuals alike.

Dyson was also a talented writer, a scintillating humourist and an arresting speaker. A stunning overnight success, he was described as the most famous Australian in the world.

In 1916 Dyson became Australia's first official war artist. His drawings of profound empathy and sympathy remain a unique record of the Western Front experience. Once again he complemented his art with exquisite writing.

Returning to Australia in 1925, he took up etching to international acclaim, confirming that whatever he did he did well.

Absorbing, illuminating, and lavishly illustrated, this is a fascinating story of the life and times of a remarkable and under-recognised Australian.


Ross McMullin’s stunning biography entertains, educates and entices the reader to ponder what heights our nation might have reached if we had nurtured and hung on to men such as Dyson ... The passion and intelligence with which McMullin traces Dyson’s career ... allows readers to feel that they have in some way encountered Dyson as an artist and a man. This is what biography should be: not just a pallid regurgitation of the facts of a life, but an engagement with that life.

Rebecca Edwards, Courier Mail

Ross McMullin is arguably Australia's most formidable historian ... [Will Dyson] is an outstanding work ... a first-class biography of an extraordinary Australian ... the life of Will Dyson makes truly inspiring reading.

Sunday Telegraph

The story of this talented, likeable, thoroughly political man is well worth knowing on many fronts ... [an] absorbing book.

Ian Topliss, Australian Book Review

McMullin's book does Dyson credit. Its biographical style with footnotes neatly tucked out of sight makes for easy and pleasurable reading, and the illustrations throughout are a treat.

Catherine Speck, Australian Historical Studies

a very impressive book. It not only brings to life a remarkably talented individual ... it also recreates the era from which he emerged. Jimi Hendrix famously called the blues "the reflection of the world". McMullin shows that biography, at its best, can be something similar.

Jeff Sparrow, Overland

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Formats & editions

  • Paperback


    December 8, 2016

    Scribe Publications

    480 pages

    RRP $45.00

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