La Belle Dame sans Merci Frank Dicksee Buy Art Prints Now
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Tom Gurney BSc (Hons) is an art history expert with over 20 years experience
Published on June 19, 2020 / Updated on October 14, 2023
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In 1901, the English Victorian painter, Sir Frank Dicksee produced the painting La Belle Dame sans Merci. Although the artist's success came from his portraits of fashionable women, his works also include those capturing dramatic literary scenes. The painting La Belle Dame sans Merci was one of those works.

There are several pictures painted which all share the title La Belle Dame sans Merci. One of those was the 1901 painting by Sir Frank Dicksee. He drew his inspiration from the 1819 classic poem of the same name by John Keats. Dicksee was not alone in this. Artists such as John William Waterhouse, Henry Meynell Rheam, and Arthur Hughes also painted works based on Keats' poem. Looking at the painting, Dicksee blends the appeal for chivalry with that of romantic escapism.

In interpreting Keats poem, the artist has chosen the point where the knight meets the lady in a meadow. Keats describes the woman as a fairy's child and that her eyes were wild. She is wearing a long flowing, rhubarb dress. Contrasting with her red hair is a crown of white flowers. The woman is sitting side-saddle on the knight’s horse, looking down into his eyes. Looking at the picture, Dicksee captures the central theme of the poem that it’s the woman who is in control. For the knight, he is looking up at the woman, appearing to no longer be in control. With arms outstretched, his expression is one of infatuation. He has eyes only for her.

Although Dicksee places the knight and the lady at the centre of the scene, he does not neglect the background. He does this by including vibrant colours in the background. Dicksee takes account of things like the purple hills, the flowers in the meadow and the glowing sky. As mentioned in the poem, there's also a lake in the background. Sir Frank Dicksee painted, La Belle Dame sans Merci using oil on canvas. It measures 137 cm in height and 188 cm in width. Although the picture is in a Pre-Raphaelite style, the artist was not a member of the movement. Today, the painting in on display to the public at the Bristol Museum and Art Gallery in Bristol. They acquired the painting in 1913 as a gift from a Mrs Yda Richardson.

La Belle Dame sans Merci in Detail Frank Dicksee