When we think of Britain’s greatest artists, we think of Turner or Constable or Hogarth. But we don’t usually think of William Dobson, do we? Many people have not even heard of him. Yet Dobson was Britain’s finest Baroque portraitist, an unusually talented artist whose work was bound up inextricably with one of the most dramatic events in _British history – the English Civil War.
Born in London in 1611, Dobson became Charles I’s principal painter on the death of Van Dyck in 1641. A year later, at the outbreak of the English Civil War, Dobson accompanied the King to Oxford, where he painted spectacular portraits of the Royal Family and the leading Royalist supporters. Following the King’s defeat by Cromwell and the Parliamentarians in 1646, Dobson returned to London where he died in poverty, aged just 35.
It was a tragically short career, but a hugely significant one. In this film, the art critic Waldemar Januszczak uncovers the fascinating life and times of the artist, and argues that Dobson is a lost genius of British art. Travelling to great houses, museums, castles and palaces across Britain, Januszczak examines many of Dobson’s masterpieces and the impressive settings in which they can be found, and shows why this great artist does not deserve to be forgotten.