Dickinson, William (1746-1823) (DNB00)

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DICKINSON, WILLIAM (1746–1823), mezzotint engraver, was born in London in 1746. Early in life he began to engrave in mezzotint, mostly caricatures and portraits after R. E. Pine, and in 1767 he was awarded a premium by the Society of Arts. In 1773 he commenced publishing his own works, and in 1778 entered into partnership with Thomas Watson, who engraved in both stipple and mezzotint, and who died in 1781. Dickinson appears to have been still carrying on the business of a printseller in 1791, but he afterwards removed to Paris, where he continued the practice of his art, and died in the summer of 1823.

Some of Dickinson's plates are among the most brilliant examples of mezzotint engraving. They are excellent in drawing and render with much truth the characteristics of Reynolds and other painters after whose works they were engraved. Fine proofs of these have become very scarce, and fetch high prices when sold by public auction. Dickinson's most important works are portraits, especially those after Sir Joshua Reynolds, which include full-length portraits of George III in his coronation robes, Charles, duke of Rutland, Elizabeth, countess of Derby, Diana, viscountess Crosbie, Mrs. Sheridan as ‘St. Cecilia,’ Mrs. Pelham, Mrs. Mathew, Lord Robert Manners, and Richard Barwell and son; and three-quarter or half-length portraits of Jane, duchess of Gordon, Emilia, duchess of Leinster, Lady Charles Spencer, Lady Taylor, Richard, earl Temple, Admiral Lord Rodney, Sir Joseph Banks, Dr. Percy, bishop of Dromore, Soame Jenyns, and the Hon. Richard Edgcumbe. He engraved also portraits of John, duke of Argyll, after Gainsborough; Lord-chancellor Thurlow (full-length), Admiral Lord Keppel, Thomas, lord Grantham, Sir Charles Hardy, Dr. Law, bishop of Carlisle, Isaac Reed, and Miss Ramus (afterwards Lady Day), after Romney; George II (full-length), Ferdinand, duke of Brunswick, David Garrick, Miss Nailer as ‘Hebe,’ Mrs. Yates (full-length), John Wilkes (two plates), and James Worsdale, after Pine; Richard, first earl Grosvenor (full-length), after Benjamin West; the Duke and Duchess of York (two full-lengths), after Hoppner; Mrs. Siddons as ‘Isabella’ (full-length), after Beach; Charles, second earl Grey, and William, lord Auckland, after Sir Thomas Lawrence; Samuel Wesley when a boy (full-length), after Russell; Mrs. Gwynne and Mrs. Bunbury as the ‘Merry Wives of Windsor,’ after D. Gardner; Sir Robert Peel, after Northcote; Charles Bannister, after W. C. Lindsay; Mrs. Hartley as ‘Elfrida,’ after Nixon; Napoleon I, after Gérard (1815); Catharine, empress of Russia; and others after Angelica Kauffmann, Dance, Wheatley, Gainsborough, Dupont, Stubbs, and Morland. Besides these he engraved a ‘Holy Family,’ after Correggio; heads of Rubens, Helena Forman (Rubens's second wife), and Vandyck, after Rubens; ‘The Gardens of Carlton House, with Neapolitan Ballad-singers,’ after Bunbury; ‘The Murder of David Rizzio’ and ‘Margaret of Anjou a Prisoner before Edward IV,’ after J. Graham; ‘Lydia,’ after Peters; and ‘Vertumnus and Pomona’ and ‘Madness,’ after Pine, some of which are in the dotted style. Mr. Chaloner Smith, in his ‘British Mezzotinto Portraits,’ describes ninety-six plates by Dickinson.

[Redgrave's Dict. of Artists of the English School, 1878; Chaloner Smith's British Mezzotinto Portraits, 1878–83, i. 171–203; Blanc's Manuel de l'Amateur d'Estampes, 1854–7, ii. 125–6.]

R. E. G.