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Monday, April 20, 2015

The English Artist William Dobson

The de Young Museum in San Francisco is currently showing a special exhibit from National Gallery of Scotland, and one of the paintings is by William Dobson. The painting is of Charles, Prince of Wales, the eldest son of the king, so William Dobson was an artist that at times was commissioned by the King.

Now, William Dobson is the name of one of my uncles, but because the painting was created around 1642 rather than now, I knew this was not MY uncle. I also knew I have several William Dobson's in my English family tree, so wondered if this was one of my long lost grandfathers. Could we be related??

This William Dobson was born in London in 1611, the son of a decorative artist also called William Dobson. William Dobson (the famous English artist) was married twice, first to Elizabeth (who died in 1634) and then in 1637 to Judith Sander. There is no report of any children, however.

Around sixty of Dobson's works still survive, mostly are half-length portraits dating from 1642 or later. His work is in many of the National museums in London, Scotland, and New Zealand. He lost his patronage and was then briefly imprisoned for debt, later dying in poverty at the age of thirty-six.

Here is William Dobson's selfie (which looks an awful lot like one of my cousins)

and here is the full painting.

According to,"this is  Dobson’s most accomplished self-portrait. In the center, Dobson is flanked by Nicholas Lanier, one of the great connoisseurs of the time, and Sir Charles Cotterell, the youngest of the artist’s patrons. The painting symbolizes a popular philosophical debate in which the artist is asked to choose between Pleasure and Virtue, drawing on the mythological Choice of Hercules. Lanier, in his flashy clothes, represents Pleasure, gesturing persuasively and concealing a bust of Apollo. Cotterell, symbolizing Virtue, wears sober black and protects Dobson with an embrace."

I don't know yet if this artist, William Dobson, is a relative of mine or not, but many in my family are considered artsy, so if there is an artsy fartsy gene, maybe we got it! Or maybe, being an accomplished artist, is just due to consistent practice and hard work.

Needless to say, William Dobson of 1611-1646 really did create some lovely portraits in his mere 36 years of living.