Sir Francis Bernard Dicksee, (Frank Dicksee)

(27 November 1853 - 17 October 1928)

English painter and illustrator. The second child, and eldest son of Thomas F. Dicksee was born on the 27 of November, 1853, at No. 7, Russell Place, Fitzroy Square, and by baptism became Francis Bernard Dicksee. For him as for his younger sister, Margaret, the conditions were as favourable for early development of a love of art as they had been unfavourable for their father and uncle. In an artist's house, in the centre of an artistic colony, his ready intelligence began to absorb the rudiments of drawing and painting long before the grim mysteries of the alphabet were forced upon his attention -- in fact, he cannot remember when he began to attempt to draw. His very earliest essays were in copying book illustrations. Later, while the three R's and other displeasing branches of useful knowledge were being imparted at the Reverend Mr. George Henslow's school in Bloomsbury, they had to contend in the boy's head with the art training in his father's studio that engrossed much of his spare time. During school holidays he worked there steadily, drawing from casts and copying studies and parts of pictures. At the age of sixteen the ordinary school career came to an end, and art no longer had any rival in Master Frank's affection. For nearly a year he worked hard at home with his father, and to such good purpose that on his first application he was admitted a probationer at the Schools of the Royal Academy. In the following year he (1871) he was granted a studentship.

He won a silver medal for drawing from the Antique in 1872 and a gold medal in 1875 for his painting 'Elijah confronting Ahab and Jezebel in Naboth's Vineyard' (untraced), with which he made his debut at the Royal Academy in 1876. He also began to work as an illustrator during the 1870s, contributing to Cassell's Magazine, Cornhill Magazine, The Graphic and other periodicals. During the 1880's he was commissioned by Cassell & Co. to illustrate their editions of Longfellow's 'Evangeline' (1882), Shakespeare's 'Othello' (1890) and 'Romeo and Juliet' (1884).

Dicksee's paintings are executed with textural fluidity and rich orchestrations of colour. They reveal a curious blend of influences, in particular the classicism of Frederic Leighton and the abstracted idealism of G. F. Watts. His predilection for the decorative aspects of painting grew out of his studies with Henry Holiday, a designer of stained glass. He passionately championed the Victorian ideals of High Art and publicly condemned the artistic trends that emerged towards the end of his life. His work covers a wide range of subject-matter and genres, including biblical and allegorical paintings; among those derived from literary sources are 'Chivalry' (1885; priv. col., see The Royal Academy Revisited, exh. cat. by C. Forbes, New York, Met., 1975, p. 38). He also painted society portraits and social dramas, such as 'The Confession' (1896; priv. col.).

Looking back upon his student days, Mr. Dicksee acknowledges first of all the splendid training he received from his father, who though a self-trained artist, prepared him thoroughly for the academical course. The drawings which secured his admission to Burlington House were made in his father's studio.

No one was much surprised when, in 1881, Mr. Dicksee was elected as Associate of the Royal Academy, for though he was only twenty-seven years of age, he had well earned the honour, alike by his academic career and the distinction of his exhibited pictures. 1891 was a very notable year in Mr. Dicksee's career; before the exhibition had run its course he was elected a Royal Academician -- an honour well deserved by his brilliant achievement, and PRA in 1924. He was knighted in 1925 and made KCVO in 1927. His sister Margaret Isabel (1858-1903) and brother Herbert Thomas (1862-1942) were also painters, as was his uncle John Robert Dicksee (1817-1905).


Sir Francis Bernard Dicksee
English Pre-Raphaelite Painter
Born in London on the 27th November 1853
Died suddenly on the 17th of October 1928.

[Artists of the Nineteenth Century and their Works. A Handbook containing Biographical Sketches. By Clara Erskine Clement and Laurence Hutton, 1879.]
[(Excerpts from: Frank Dicksee (Royal Academician): His Life and Work, By Edward Rembrault Dibdin, 1905.]
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