Dahl, Michael (DNB00)

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DAHL, MICHAEL (1656–1743), portrait-painter, born in 1656 at Stockholm, was pupil of the Danish painter Klocker. In 1678 he came to England, and after a short residence there, travelled and studied in France and afterwards in Italy. In 1688 he settled as a portrait-painter in London, and gradually attained repute and large employment in his art. He was patronised by Princess (afterwards queen) Anne and Prince George, and by many of the nobility, in whose family galleries most of his works still extant are to be found. The portrait of Charles XI of Sweden at Windsor, the series of portraits of admirals at Hampton Court, and the portrait of Lord justice-general Mackenzie, known as Earl of Cromarty, as one of Queen Anne's secretaries of state, painted in 1708, and now in the Parliament House in Edinburgh, are from his brush. Two of his portraits of Prince George have been engraved. His own portrait is engraved in Walpole's ‘Anecdotes,’ and another and earlier portrait by himself, and a very good example of his style of work, is in the collection of Mr. Tregellas of Morlah Lodge, Brompton. His work is characterised by care in execution and faithfulness of portraiture. His colouring is good, and the accessories are rendered honestly, though in the conventional and rather tasteless style of the time. It must be confessed, however, that his work is not distinguished by either originality or genius. He was content to represent his patrons as he found them in accordance with the rules of portrait-painting as then understood, and though in regard of the number and position of his clients he has been styled the rival of Kneller, to whose practice he in fact succeeded, his want of refinement and matter-of-fact, if not commonplace style, cannot entitle him to a place in competition with the best works of that master. To imagination, the rarest gift of the portrait-painter, by virtue of which he renders on his canvas not the bodily presence merely, but even the character of his subject, Dahl can certainly lay no claim. He died in London on 20 Oct. 1743, and was buried in St. James's Church, Piccadilly. His son, also a portrait-painter, though even less gifted than his father, died three years before him.

[Walpole's Anecdotes of Painting (Wornum); Evans's Cat. of Engraved Portraits.]

G. W. B.