A Century of British Painters

By Samuel Redgrave; Richard Redgrave | Go to book overview

CHAPTER XXXVI
WILLIAM DYCE AND SCHOOLS OF DESIGN

WILLIAM DYCE, R.A., was not only eminent as an artist and as a representative of the new school of fresco-painting, but he was engaged in initiating the system of Government art-teaching, intended, in the first instance, to provide instruction for our artisans, and designers for manufacturers; but which, under the direction of his successors, has been extended to provide sound elementary instruction open to all.

William Dyce was born in Aberdeen, on 19 September 1806. His father was a physician in extensive practice in that city. It is not recorded whether young Dyce was from the first intended for the arts, but he received a liberal education, fitted to form his mind and to qualify him for any future pursuit or profession. He early graduated at the Marischal College in his native city, and at the age of sixteen took the degree of Master of Arts. Soon after, having adopted art as his profession, he left Aberdeen and in his seventeenth year entered the schools of the Royal Scottish Academy. Whether from any cause other than the desire of improvement in the metropolitan schools we know not, but he came early to London, and obtained admittance as a probationer at the Royal Academy. He himself tells us that he was dissatisfied with the instruction in these schools; and as he did not obtain his admission as a student, he determined to avail himself of opportunities afforded him of visiting the Continental schools of art.

In 1825, Dyce, being then only nineteen years of age, made a journey to Italy, to prosecute his studies amidst those great historical and monumental works which can only be fully appreciated in situ. On this occasion he spent nine months in Rome. In thus early visiting the great seats of art, he differs from most of our British painters, and we can trace the influence of this early visit on all his future career. With a cultivated mind, but as yet unfettered by the prevailing tastes of his brother artists, he was brought face to face with the great works of the masters of the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries, and the impression made on him was deep and enduring. The 'propriety' and refinement of Raphael's labours seemed congenial to his taste, and gave aim to his future efforts. For a time, perhaps, the veneration with which the early masters were regarded by him, led rather to imitation than to originality, but as strength and confidence increased with years this

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