Dowling revisited Australia in 1884–86, and set up in Melbourne, the largest, richest, and fastest-growing city in the colonies. He had by then acquired a sound reputation, and he became the most highly esteemed portrait and figure painter in Australia. He received more than eighteen commissions of the Melbourne establishment, including one from the Governor of Victoria, Sir Henry Loch. He was involved in the city’s lively artistic community.
On the strength of this success he went back to Britain in 1886, intending to pack up his studio and return to Australia permanently. However, he died in London of a heart attack, aged 59. He was a distinguished Tasmanian son of the British Empire.