The painting that ‘introduced’ me to Sir Frank Dicksee was ‘The Two Crowns’ … the horse with its beautiful trappings, the golden-clad king, the women and their gorgeous, elegant gowns, the fluttering of the petals … and, to the side, Christ on the cross; even though it’s rendered in shadow, still it draws the eye because you’re curious as to what has captured the king’s attention.
The ‘Two Crowns’ of the title refers to the king’s crown, and Christ’s crown of thorns. Surrounded as he is by the admiring crowd, the king’s gaze is fixed on the crucifix, a striking reminder of the fleeting quality of power and success.
Frank Dicksee, painter and illustrator, was born in November 1853 in London, into a family noted for its artistic abilities. His father and uncle were painters, and his sister, Margaret, and brother, Herbert, were also painters.
Initially, he studied in his father’s studio before entering the Royal Academy School in 1870 where he was trained by visiting lecturers including Lord Frederick Leighton and John Everett Millais. Dicksee proved to be a star student, earning distinctions and medals. He spent much of his early career working as an illustrator for publications, including Cassell Magazine, The Graphic, and other periodicals.
Dicksee made his reputation when ‘Harmony’ (below) was exhibited at the Royal Academy in 1877.
He was elected ARA (Associate Member of the Royal Academy) in 1881, becoming a full RA (Royal Academician) in 1891. Though he tended to paint dramatic scenes from history and legend, he also produced elegant portraits of fashionable women, so beautifully painted, they helped bring him material success.
In 1924, he was elected President of the Royal Academy, despite his public condemnation of the artistic trends that were emerging in the 20th century. He proved a more than able president. Known for his charming, easy-going manner, Dicksee remained a bachelor. Knighted in 1925, he died in October 1928.
As I’ve said before, I’m no art expert, but I do know what I like … and what I like about Sir Frank Dicksee’s paintings are the richness of colour, and the exquisite look of each painting.
'The End of the Quest' - I find this intriguing; the man is obviously in love with the woman and has travelled far, yet her gaze isn't on him, and she seems ... uninterested.
'Miranda' - so beautifully executed
'The Mirror' - the materials look so rich and sumptuous, I want to reach in and feel them
'Yseult' - is this before she leaves her home, or after she falls in love with Tristan, I wonder; either way, she looks sad
'Christ of the Cornfield' - I love the simplicity of this painting, his face is so beautiful yet there's so much sadness in his eyes, I find it hard to look away
'Romeo and Juliet' - for me, this truly captures the passion of secret, young love
'La Belle Dame Sans Merci' - saw the full-size painting of this in Bristol Museum and it is breath-taking
'The Mother' - I love this; find it especially poignant