William Dobson - Encyclopedia

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WILLIAM DOBSON (1610-1646), English portrait and historical painter, was born in London. His father was master of the alienation office, but by improvidence had fallen into reduced circumstances. The son was accordingly bound an apprentice to a stationer and picture dealer in Holborn Bridge; and while in his employment he began to copy the pictures of Titian and Van Dyck. He also took portraits from life under the advice and instruction of Francis Cleyn, a German artist of considerable repute. Van Dyck, happening to pass a shop in Snow Hill where one of Dobson's pictures was exposed, sought out the artist, and presented him to Charles I., who took Dobson under his protection, and not only sat to him several times for his own portrait, but caused the prince of Wales, Prince Rupert and many others to do the same. The king had a high opinion of his artistic ability, styled him the English Tintoretto, and appointed him serjeantpainter on the death of Van Dyck. After the fall of Charles, Dobson was reduced to great poverty, and fell into dissolute habits. He died at the early age of thirty-six. Excellent examples of Dobson's portraits are to be seen at Blenheim, Chatsworth and several other country seats throughout England. The head in the "Decollation of St John the Baptist" at Wilton is said to be a portrait of Prince Rupert.

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