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Portrait of George Dawe

 

 

The English artist George Dawe (1781-1829) was known in Europe as a

fashionable portraitist and master of engravings. He also produced

canvases on historical and mythological themes as well as genre

paintings in the spirit of sentimental Romanticism. Dawe paintrd

portraits of English generals who distinguished themselves in the Battle

of Waterloo. In 1818 the artist was present in Aachen at the Congress of

the heads of the states that entered the Holy Alliance. There he was

introduced to Alexander I and the Russian emperor invited him to Russia

to work on the portaits for the War Gallery of 1812 in the Winter

Palace.

 

After his arrival in Petersburg in the spring of 1819, George Dawe

stayed in the capital for 10 years. During this time he produced 333

portraits for the Gallery, some by himself, some together with his

Russian pupils Vasily (Wilhelm) Golike (died in 1848) and Alexander

Polyakov (1801-1835). In the autumn of 1820 a small exhibition of George

Dawe’s works was arranged at the Academy of Arts, which was a great

success. After that he was elected an honorary member of the Petersburg

Academy of Arts. From this time on many members of the tsarist family,

courtiers and ministers, high-born noblemen and officers of the Guards

began to commission their portraits from Dawe. The artist managed to

paint all of them.

 

 

Portrait of Grand Duchess Maria Pavlovna

 

George Dawe

 

It is interesting to note that none of Dawe’s contemporaries left us a

description of the way he looked and behaved, since he lived in

seclusion. Dawe tirelessly worked in Petersburg, spent many hours at his

easel either in the palace studio or in the wealthy homes of his

clients.

 

At the beginning Dawe worked alone, but then he created a workshop.

First there came from England his son-in-law Thomas Wright and his

younger brother Henry Dawe, who did engravings after George Dawe’s

paintings. These engravings were in great demand. They were bought by

the persons portrayed who gave them as gifts to their relatives, as well

as by their colleagues, institutions they headed and by the educational

establishments where they had studied.

 

In 1822 two assistants joined Dawe’s studio: Alexander Polyakov and

Vasily (Wilhelm) Golike. Although all the portraits were entered in the

Hermitage’s catalogue as works by George Dawe, there are obvious

stylistic differences among them. Undoubtedly some of them were not

painted by Dawe himself but by some of his assistants. In 1828 Dawe was

granted the title of the first portrait painter of the Russian Imperial

court and soon he left Petersburg. At that time the master was a member

of the Petersburg and London Academies of Arts; he was also elected to

the Vienna, Florence, Paris, Munich, Dresden and Stockholm Academies.

 

In February 1829 Dawe returned to Petersburg to do a life-size portrait

of Grand Duke Konstantin Pavlovich and to finish several other portraits

for the Gallery. His sharply deteriorating health forced him to leave

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