Dixon, John (1740?-1780?) (DNB00)

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DIXON, JOHN (1740?–1780?), mezzotint engraver, was born in Dublin about 1740. He received his art training in the Dublin Society's schools, of which Robert West was then master, and began life as an engraver of silver plate. Having, however, run through a small fortune left to him by his father, he removed to London about 1765, and in the following year became a member of the Incorporated Society of Artists, with whom he exhibited until 1775. His portraits of Dr. Carmichael, bishop of Meath (afterwards archbishop of Dublin), after Ennis, and of Nicholas, viscount Taaffe, after Robert Hunter, appear to have been engraved before he left Ireland; but soon after his arrival in London he became known by his full-length portrait of Garrick in the character of ‘Richard III,’ after Dance. Some of his best plates were executed between 1770 and 1775; they are well drawn, brilliant, and powerful, but occasionally rather black. Dixon was a handsome man, and married a young lady with an ample fortune, whereupon he retired to Ranelagh, and thenceforward followed his profession merely for recreation. He afterwards removed to Kensington, where he died about 1780.

Dixon's best engravings are after the works of Sir Joshua Reynolds, and include full-length portraits of Mary, duchess of Ancaster, and Mrs. Blake as ‘Juno,’ and others of William, duke of Leinster, Henry, tenth earl of Pembroke, Elizabeth, countess of Pembroke, and her son, the Misses Crewe, Charles Townshend, chancellor of the exchequer, William Robertson, D.D., Nelly O'Brien, and Miss Davidson, a young lady whose death in 1767 caused her parents so much grief that they are said to have destroyed the plate and all the impressions they could obtain. Besides the portraits above mentioned, Dixon engraved a group of David Garrick as ‘Abel Drugger,’ with Burton and Palmer as ‘Subtle’ and ‘Face,’ after Zoffany; a full-length of Garrick alone, from the same picture; a half-length of Garrick, after Hudson; William, earl of Ancrum, afterwards fifth marquis of Lothian, full-length, after Gilpin and Cosway; Henry, third duke of Buccleuch and Queensberry, and Joshua Kirby, after Gainsborough; Rev. James Hervey, after J. Williams; Sir William Browne, M.D., after Hudson; ‘Betty,’ a pretty girl who sold fruit near the Royal Exchange, after Falconet; and William Beckford, both full-length and three-quarter reversed, after a drawing by himself. Other plates by him are ‘The Frame Maker,’ after Rembrandt; ‘The Flute Player,’ after Frans Hals; and ‘The Arrest’ and ‘The Oracle,’ after his own designs. Forty plates by him are described by Mr. Chaloner Smith.

[Redgrave's Dict. of Artists of the English School, 1878; Chaloner Smith's British Mezzotinto Portraits, 1878–83, i. 203–18; Catalogues of the Exhibition of the Society of Artists, 1766–1775.]

R. E. G.