Happy Birthday, Mr Dobson!

Well, sort of.  On this day in 1611, William Dobson was baptised at St Andrew’s church in Holborn, the first son of an eventual 12 surviving siblings. His actual date of birth is unknown, so 4th March (and not 28th February – I’m looking at you, Dictionary of National Biography) –  is the day I like to mark as his birthday.

As it’s his anniversary, I went to the National Portrait Gallery in London today to see some of his works. Sadly only one was on display (Richard Neville), thanks to the NPG’s new brainchild of mixing art from different periods so you can ‘compare and contrast’. It’s a bloody awful idea, as it meant the space normally occupied by genuine Stuart-era portraits (in the room entitled “The Stuart Room”, oddly enough) was taken up by two large, modern 21st century paintings, and a number of 17th century works had been removed. Being a pure traditionalist I don’t hold with mixing genres in a normally chronological space, as it spoils the ‘feel’ of a period and is frankly pretty jarring. I won’t even start on the inclusion of an underwear clad, modern actress on the wall in the next room, designated for 19th century portraiture…What I love about NPG, normally, is that it tends to stick to chronological hanging, allowing you to immerse yourself in a style or period rather than viewing by genre or theme. Mixed hangings may work in other galleries, just please knock it off here!

But back to William 🙂

Here’s a lesser-known self-portrait from the late 1630s, and my favourite of all of his works. It’s in a private collection, sadly, but was included in the 1983 exhibition catalogue.

WD self portrait bandw

As it’s his birthday, I thought this would be the perfect time to announce the title of my new biography. “William Dobson: The King’s Painter” will be published soon by Tyger’s Head Books, and covers his childhood, family, career and, of course, his life during the English Civil War. A lot of commonly held beliefs about the man are debunked, and previously undiscovered surprises are revealed. (The Archbishop of Canterbury? Really?!!))

I’ll give more details and a publication date as soon as they are available!

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