Dickinson, Lowes (DNB12)

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DICKINSON, LOWES [CATO] (1819–1908), portrait painter, born at Kilburn on 27 Nov. 1819, was one of the family of seven sons and four daughters of Joseph Dickinson by his wife Anne Carter of Topsham, Devonshire, whose kinsmen were officers in the navy. His paternal grandfather was a farmer in Northumberland, and his father started business in Bond Street as a stationer and publisher of lithographs. Educated at Topsham school and Dr. Lord's school, Tooting, Lowes Dickinson worked with his father at lithography, and was earning his own living from the age of sixteen. By the help of (Sir) Robert Michael Laffan [q. v.] he was enabled to visit Italy and Sicily, where he resided from Nov. 1850 to June 1853. Diary letters in the hands of his family give a vivid picture of artist life in Rome, Naples, and elsewhere during that period, and already reveal the strong sympathy both for man and nature which became characteristic. On returning to England he took a studio in Langham Chambers, where Millais then also had a studio. He was well acquainted with the Pre-Raphaelites, and about 1854 came into contact with Frederic Denison Maurice, and together with Charles Kingsley, Tom Hughes, John Malcolm Ludlow [q. v. Suppl. II], Llewelyn Davies, and others was one of the band of Christian socialists who, under Maurice's banner, strove to infuse Christian ideals into the budding movement for social reform. An important and permanent outcome of the movement was the foundation of the Working Men's College, where in early days Lowes Dickinson taught drawing with Ruskin and Dante Gabriel Rossetti, and in which, until his death, he maintained as one of the longest lived of the founders a warm interest, testified by the admirable portraits of Maurice, Kingsley, and Hughes which he painted for the college walls. In 1858 he painted portraits of the same three fellow-workers for his friend, Alexander Macmillan, the publisher, of whom in later life he made a most characteristic crayon drawing (Graves's Life and Letters of A. Macmillan, 1910).

In 1860 he took an active part in the formation of the ‘Artists’ volunteer rifle corps, of which he was treasurer.

Dickinson regularly exhibited portraits at the Royal Academy from 1848 to 1891, missing only the years 1849, 1853, and 1884. Among his numerous subjects were Queen Victoria, the Prince of Wales (afterwards Edward VII), Princess Alice, Lord Kelvin, *Richard Cobden (in the Reform Club), the duke of Argyll, *Lord Napier of Magdala, Sir Henry Norman, George Grote, Viscount Goschen, *Sir Henry Maine, Prof. Edmund Lushington, Sir Arthur Helps, Professor Cayley, Sir George Gabriel Stokes, Professor Clerk Maxwell, Dean Stanley (now at Rugby), Mr. Gladstone's cabinet in 1872 (now in the Devonshire club), Mr. Gladstone, Lord Cairns, Lord Palmerston, *Lord Granville, *John Bright, and Quintin Hogg. His striking posthumous portrait of *General Gordon at Khartoum hangs in the dining-hall of the Gordon Boys' Home. Many of his portraits hang in college halls at Cambridge, and those marked with an asterisk have been engraved. He had an almost unique gift for posthumous portraiture in crayons.

Shortly after his marriage he took a cottage at Hanwell, where he lived from 1864 to 1879, still retaining his studio in Langham Chambers. In 1879 he built the house close by, known as All Souls' Place, where he died on 15 Dec. 1908. He was buried at Kensal Green cemetery.

He married, on 15 Oct. 1857, Margaret Ellen, daughter of William Smith Williams, who, as reader to Messrs. Smith, Elder & Co., discovered the genius of the Brontës. Mrs. Dickinson died in 1882. Her sister, Anna Williams, was the well-known singer. He had a family of two sons and five daughters, who founded in his memory in 1909 the ‘Lowes Dickinson Memorial Studentship’ at the Working Men's College for the study of art abroad. His younger son, Goldsworthy Lowes Dickinson, fellow of King's College, Cambridge, has achieved distinction as an essayist and writer on political and social subjects.

[The Times, 21 Dec. 1908; Athenæum, 2 Jan. 1909; Working Men's Coll Journal, Jan. and Feb; 1909; The Working Men's College, ed. J. Ll. Davies, 1904, with private information.]

G. A. M.