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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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Frank Dicksee may not have been as famous as some other British artists, but we are still able to put together a reasonably detailed picture about his personality even though attributable quotes are relatively rare.

The artist was known to be fairly conservative in his outlook, and this was reflected in how he saw the art world. He rejected many of the new techniques and movements that were appearing at the time, and continued to work in his own way even when others started to label it as stale or old fashioned. He would speak out regularly against the development of art within Europe but his views were becoming more and more sidelined. It would be wrong to describe him as bitter about this, though, and he showed a good strength of character to continue working in the way that he liked, rather than following the latest fashions. In today's world, there is room for all manner of different approaches, and academics are less judgemental today around dictating the 'right' way to paint.

It may have been that Dicksee had achieved so much success in the earlier parts of his career that by the time criticism started to arrive, he was already pretty much set in his ways as an artist and would be far less willing to change at that point. He may also have seen other artists that he respected receiving similar comments and so found a strength of resolve in that. Changing tastes had happened before his career, and will continue for many centuries afterwards, so he perhaps accepted this as not something to really worry about, as long as his own career was sufficiently profitable.

The artist held some views on race which would be particularly controversial today. He displays these in The Two Crowns, which is believed to have subtly promoted the idea of Arian supremacy. It is very hard to imagine any mainstream artist surviving the announcement of such opinions today, but this underlines how society can change over time. It is important to remember the very different global situation at around that time as compared to how things are today, with us all being relatively more aware of other cultures and more respectful of diversity and each other's strengths and weaknesses.

Famous Quotes by Frank Dicksee

None currently available.

Quotes about Frank Dicksee by Art Historians and Fellow Artists

British painter, the best-known member of a family of artists. He specialized in romantic historical scenes (often from his own imagination rather than based on a particular event or literary source) and—in the later part of his career—portraits; he also occasionally produced scenes of modern social drama. At his best, he painted with a sumptuous technique and a feeling for bold and unusual lighting effects, but he could be rather twee. He was at the height of his esteem at the turn of the century: in 1900 he was awarded a medal at the Paris Universal Exhibition, and in the same year his pious medieval pageant The Two Crowns (Tate) was voted the most popular picture at the Royal Academy summer exhibition. By the end of his career, however, he was regarded as distinctly old-fashioned, and when he was elected president of the Royal Academy in 1924, this was seen as a concession to his seniority rather than as an indication of his standing in the art world. He was strongly opposed to modernism in art and his speeches as president fit the stereotype of the old attacking the new.

The Oxford Dictionary of Art and Artists (Oxford University Press)

Frank Dicksee was a member of a noted artistic family, his father, brother, and sister Margaret were all well-known painters, and the family lived in the Bloomsbury area of London. He was initially trained by his father, before entering the Royal Academy schools in 1870. Amongst the visiting lecturers who trained him, were the famous senior academicians Leighton [1830-1896] and Millais [1829-1896]. Dicksee was a star student, earning many distinctions and medals. Like many other artists of the day his early career was largely spent in book illustration, as well as some stained glass window design. He started exhibiting at the RA in the mid 1870s, and also exhibited at the Grosvenor Gallery, though his real base was always the Academy. Dicksee made his reputation with Harmony, exhibited at the Academy in 1877, and bought by the Chantry Bequest.

Victorian Art in Britain

The Two Crowns of the title are the golden crown of a king and the crown of thorns worn by Christ on the cross. Dicksee invented this highly moral scene in which a medieval king, riding in a triumphal procession, is startled by the sight of a crucifix (or perhaps sees a vision of Christ) and is reminded of the transience of earthly power and success. In fact the chivalric, Christian knight had been a role model for the modern gentleman for most of the nineteenth century. This painting was bought for the nation from the Royal Academy in 1900 for £2,000.

Tate, UK

Harmony is one of the most well known pictures by Dicksee, depicting a young man staring adoringly into the eyes of a girl playing the organ. The model for the woman was Hilda Spencer who was then a student at Queens College, Harley Street where Dicksee taught drawing. She sits in a trance like state, seemingly oblivious to her suitor's rapturous gaze. The painted furniture is reminiscent of the medieval figurative panels then being produced by William Burges (1827-81) and William Morris (1834-96). In addition the stained glass reflects the influence of Pre-Raphaelitism and, in particular, Henry Holiday (1839-1927). Holiday was introduced to the applied arts by Dante Gabriel Rossetti (1828-82) and Burges. In 1863 he began his career as a painter of stained glass, employing Dicksee for some years to make cartoons and research costumes and characters in the British Library.

Tate, UK

Sir Francis Bernard Dicksee KCVO PRA (London 27 November 1853 – 17 October 1928) was an English Victorian painter and illustrator, best known for his pictures of dramatic literary, historical, and legendary scenes. He also was a noted painter of portraits of fashionable women, which helped to bring him success in his own time.