A genre and portrait painter, he exhibited at the Royal Academy from 1876, becoming successively ARA (1881), RA (1891) and finally President of the Royal Academy in 1924.
Frank Dicksee painted elegant society portraits - The Duchess of Westminster (1906) is a particularly good one - and various romantic and historical pictures, often in a somewhat Pre-Raphaelite manner. Particularly well-known (and often reproduced) is Startled (1891), showing two girls fleeing from their bath in a lake after seeing an approaching boat - this was Dicksee's Diploma painting. Chivalry (1885) shows a knight standing over a fallen opponent, while nearby, a girl tied to a tree looks apprehensively around in order to see her fate. The Magazine of Art singles this picture out for disparaging comment:
"His knight has not the martial bearing and virility of the old conception of romance... The lady wants passion and humanity, and is far other than the gallant and fascinating heroines we read of ... she would probably get her to a nunnery when released, or would involve her rescuer in a metaphysical discussion."
The Magic Crystal (in the Lady Lever Art Gallery, Port Sunlight) is also rather Pre-Raphaelite in style, with an overdressed girl claustrophobically overfilling the frame of the picture in the manner of Rossetti. The Confession (1896) shows an enigmatic Waterhouse-like girl in drapery and a troubled-looking haggard man looking like a Fred Walker character. Flowers of June (1909) is a symbolist style portrait in the manner of G. F. Watts, and the earlier picture The Ideal (1905), showing a man reaching for an unattainable perfection represented as a just-out-of-reach girl in the clouds, seems to me very Pre-Raphaelite, again in its wistfulness somewhat in the manner of a painting by J. W. Waterhouse. The femme fatale is another preoccupation of the Pre-Raphaelites, and Dicksee made one of the more successful versions of La Belle Dame sans Merci (1902), the subject being from Keats. It hangs in the Bristol Art Gallery. Another important picture is The Foolish Virgins in Leicester.
Frank Dicksee came from a painting family, son of Thomas Francis Dicksee, the painter and etcher, and brother of Margaret Dicksee.
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