Dickinson Bros. 107 Kings Rd. Studio 1865

Lowes Cato Dickinson

(Kilburn, London, 27 November 1819 - 15 December 1908, Oxford Circus, London)

English portrait painter and Christian socialist. He taught drawing with Ruskin and Rossetti. He was a founder of the Working Men's College in London

Dickinson was born in Kilburn, London, one of eleven children. He obtained his first apprenticeship with his father, a Bond Street lithographer and art publisher, after attending Topsham School, and Dr Lord's School in Tooting. After his father's death in 1849, he became a partner with his two eldest brothers, Gilbert Bell Dickinson and William Robert Dickinson, in the firm of Dickinson Brothers of Bond Street. As well as continuing to publish lithographs, the firm were photographers, by appointment to Queen Victoria, and many of Dickinson's portraits were painted from photographs (when portraits were required of people too busy to sit for them, abroad, or dead). Dickinson frequently painted only the faces, with other artists hired to paint the clothes. Some of Dickinson's group pictures were also "subscription pictures", in which people would pay to have themselves portrayed more or less prominently in the painting.

He corresponded and worked with the central participants of the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood, lecturing with both Dante Gabriel Rossetti and John Ruskin. He had a studio in the same building as John Everett Millais and taught Ford Madox Brown, who worked for a time at Dickinson Brothers. Before touring Italy for three years around 1850, he had exhibited at the Royal Academy, at which exhibited every year, except three, between 1848 and 1891.


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Queen Victoria

With other Christian Socialists, Dickinson founded the Working Men's College, London, in 1854, a college to provide a liberal education for artisans. He was an enthusiastic follower of the Christian socialist movement, and painted other Christian Socialists including Charles Kingsley, Thomas Hughes, John Malcolm Forbes Ludlow, John Westlake, Frederick James Furnivall, Richard Buckley Litchfield, John Llewelyn Davies, and the movement's founder, F. D. Maurice.

Other subjects for portraits included Queen Victoria, the Prime Minister and his cabinet, George Eliot, and scientists such as Arthur Cayley, William Thomson, Sir George Stokes and James Clerk Maxwell. Maxwell mentions Dickinson in a poem he wrote to ridicule Cayley, where he notes that his portrait is merely in two dimensions whereas Cayley's achievements were in n-dimensional space.

Dickinson married Margaret Ellen Williams in 1857. Their sons were writer Goldsworthy Lowes Dickinson and the accountant Arthur Lowes Dickinson; they also had five daughters.

He died in a house built for himself in All Souls Place just north of Oxford Circus, and was buried at Kensal Green Cemetery. His papers are at Princeton, Oxford and Cambridge Universities.

Dickinson has numerous paintings in the National Portrait Gallery in London, including his group painting of Gladstone's 1868 cabinet pictured in the cabinet room of 10 Downing Street. The Working Men's College offers an annual £1000 pound Art prize for its students called the Lowes Dickinson Award. His children also established a travel award for students in his memory.

[Lowes Cato Dickinson Correspondence, 1851-1907. © Princeton University Library, Manuscripts Division]
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DICKINSON, LOWES [CATO] (1819-1908), portrait painter, born at Kilburn on 27 Nov. 1819, was one of the family of seven sons and four daughters of Joseph Dickinson by his wife Anne Carter of Topsham, Devonshire, whose kinsmen were officers in the navy. His paternal grandfather was a fanner in Northumberland, and his father started business in Bond Street as a stationer and publisher of lithographs. Educated at Topsham school and Dr. Lord's school, Tooting, Lowes Dickinson worked with his father at lithography, and was earning his own living from the age of sixteen. By the help of (Sir) Robert Michael Laffan [q. v.] he was enabled to visit Italy and Sicily, where he resided from Nov. 1850 to June 1853. Diary letters in the hands of his family give a vivid picture of artist life in Rome, Naples, and elsewhere during that period, and already reveal the strong sympathy both for man and nature which became characteristic.

On returning to England he took a studio in Langhani Chambers, where Millais then also had a studio. He was well acquainted with the Pre-Raphaelites, and about 1854 came into contact with Frederic Denison Maurice, and together with Charles Kingsley, Tom Hughes, John Malcolm Ludlow [q. v. Suppl. II], Llewelyn Davies, and others was one of the band of Christian socialists who, under Maurice's banner, strove to infuse Christian ideals into the budding movement for social reform. An important and permanent outcome of the movement was the foundation of the Working Men's College, where in early days Lowes Dickinson taught drawing with Ruskin and Dante Gabriel Rossetti, and in which, until his death, he maintained as one of the longest lived of the founders a warm interest, testified by the admirable portraits of Maurice, Kingsley, and Hughes which he painted for the college walls. In 1858 he painted portraits of the same three fellow-workers for his friend, Alexander Macmillan, the publisher, of whom his later life he made a most characteristic crayon drawing

[Graves's Life and Letters of A. Macmillan, 1910.]

In 1860 he took an active part in the formation of the 'Artists' volunteer rule corps, of which he was treasurer. Dickinson regularly exhibited portraits at the Royal Academy from 1848 to 1891, missing only the years 1849, 1853, and 1884. Among his numerous subjects were Queen Victoria, the Prince of Wales (afterwards Edward VII), Princess Alice, Lord Kelvin, *Richard Cobden (in the Reform Club), the duke of Argyll, *Lord Napier of Magdala, Sir Henry Norman, George Grote, Viscount Goschen, *Sir Henry Maine, Prof. Edmund Lushington, Sir Arthur Helps, Professor Cayley, Sir George Gabriel Stokes, Professor Clerk Maxwell, Dean Stanley (now at Rugby), Mr. Gladstone's cabinet in 1872 (now in the Devonshire club), Mr. Gladstone, Lord Cairns, Lord Palmerston ; *Lord Granville, *John Bright, and Quintin Hogg. His striking posthumous portrait of *General Gordon at Khartoum hangs in the dining-hall of the Gordon Boys' Home. Many of his portraits hang in college halls at Cambridge, and those marked with an asterisk have been engraved. He had an almost unique gift for posthumous portraiture in crayons.

Shortly after his marriage he took a cottage at Hanwell, where he lived from 1864 to 1879, still retaining his studio in Langhani Chambers. In 1879 he built the house close by, known as All Souls' Place, where he died on 15 Dec. 1908. He was buried at Kensal Green cemetery.

He married, on 15 Oct. 1857, Margaret Ellen, daughter of William Smith Williams, who, as reader to Messrs. Smith, Elder & Co., discovered the genius of the Brontes. Mrs. Dickinson died in 1882. Her sister, Anna Williams, was the well-known singer. He had a family of two sons and five daughters, who founded in his memory in 1909 the 'Lowes Dickinson Memorial Studentship' at the Working Men's College for the study of art abroad. His younger son, Goldsworthy Lowes Dickinson, fellow of King's College, Cambridge, has achieved distinction as an essayist and writer on political and social subjects.

[The Times, 21 Dec. 1908; Athen�um, 2 Jan. 1909; Working Men's Coll Journal, Jan. and Feb; 1909; The Working Men's College, ed. J. Ll. Davies, 1904; Dictionary of National Biography, 1912 supplement, Dickinson, Lowes by George Augustin Macmillan.]

Extensive Site devoted to Dickinson

View painter's work: DICKINSON, LOWES [CATO]
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