Traversing the Globe
Aportrait by Phoebe Dickinson is one of 48 works chosen from 2,667 submissions for the 2018 BP Portrait Award at London’s National Portrait Gallery. Her large triple portrait of the Cholmondeley children in their ancestral home, Houghton Hall, recalls 19th-century portraits but is very much of the 21st century. One of the twin boys stands barefoot on a wooden bench while his brother sits on its arm as their sister plays on the floor. Her composition and placement of the children in the vast space recalls the composition of John Singer Sargent’s painting at the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, The Daughters of Edward Darley Boit, 1882.
Known for her portraits, her exhibition of new work, Journey Through Landscape at the Tessa Packard Showroom in Chelsea, London, November 12 through December 14, will feature over 100 plein air paintings of her yearlong journey from Iceland to South Africa.
Dickinson grew up around fine art and began drawing as soon as she could hold a pencil. Her father is a noted art dealer with galleries in London and New York. She studied at the Charles H. Cecil Studios in Florence for over two years and later at the Lavender Hill Studios in London. She had wanted to receive traditional academic training, but she has pursued her own method of experimentation to develop her distinctive style.
Her trip around the world removed her from the confines of her studio and allowed her to continue to explore the joys of applying paint in plein air.
The small, 9-by-13-inch panel, Bitou River from Emily Moon River Lodge, has a freshness that recalls John Henry Twachtman (1853-1902) in this country and her own favorite, William Nicholson (1872-1949). A misty morning in the wetlands calls for a limited palette but just as there is more color that we see in nature initially, a closer look at her painting reveals more.
The bright sunlight of southern California animates Santa Monica Beach, another small panel. Colors seem impossibly intense and white impossibly bright in the clear light.
As sometimes happens, paintings just don’t seem to be working out. Working on this painting, she says, “I had a kind word from a passerby, which helped me to keep going when I was about to pack it in.” It worked.