Anecdotes of Painting in England: With Some Account of the Principal Artists - Vol. 2

By Horace Walpole | Go to book overview

ANECDOTES OF PAINTING,
&c.


WILLIAM DOBSON, (1610—1646,)

whom King Charles called the English Tintoret, was born in 1610, in St. Andrew's parish, in Holborn; his family had been gentlemen of good rank at St. Alban's, 1 but having fallen into decay, he was put apprentice 2 to Sir Robert Peake, whom I have mentioned, a painter and dealer in pictures. Under him, though no excellent performer, but by the advantage of copying some pictures of Titian and Vandyck, Dobson profited so much, that a picture he had drawn being exposed in the window of a shop on Snow- hill, Vandyck, passing by, was struck with it, and inquiring for the author, found him at work in a poor garret, from whence he took him and recommended him to the king. On the death of Vandyck, Dobson was appointed sergeant- painter, and groom of the privy-chamber, and attended the king to Oxford, and lodged in the High-street almost over against St. Mary's Church, in a house where some of his works remained till of late years. At Oxford, his Majesty, Prince Rupert, and several of the nobility, 3 sat to him : but the declension of the king's affairs proved fatal to Dobson ; he loved his pleasures, and not having had time to enrich himself, was involved in debts and thrown into prison, from whence he was delivered by one Mr. Vaughan

____________________
1
Aubrey, in his very quaint manner, speaking of Lord Bacon's villa at Verulam, observes, "No question, but that his lordship was the chiefest architect, but he had for his assistant a favourite of his (a St. Alban's man) Mr. ... Dobson, (who was his lordship's right hand) a very ingenious person (Master of the Alienation Office) but he spending his estate luxuriously, necessity forced his son, William Dobson, to be the most excellent painter that England hath yet bred." Vol. ii. p. 229.
2
R. Symonds says he learned most of Old Cleyn.
3
The author of the Abrégé de la Vie des plus fameux Peintres says (vol ii. p. 117) that Dobson being overwhelmed with business, thought of a lucky way to check it—it was obliging persons who sat to him to pay half the price down ; and that he was the first who used this practice. By the swarms of portraits that are left on the hands of his successors, this method is either neglected, or has very little effect!

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