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Frank Dobson (British, 1886-1963), Splendid Sunbird

Frank Dobson (British, 1886-1963), Splendid Sunbird

  • $ 2,400.00

Frank Dobson (British, 1886-1963)
Splendid Sunbird
Ink, graphite, and pastel on paper
Signed ‘Frank Dobson 53’ l.l.
Paper size: 14 ¾ x 19 ¾ in.


Frank Dobson was born in central London and grew up in Clerkenwell. His mother was Alice Mary Owen, and his father, also named Frank Dobson, was a commercial artist who specialized in bird and flower designs for greeting card companies. When his father died in 1900, the fourteen-year-old Dobson was sent to live with an aunt in Hastings. There he attended evening classes at the Hastings School of Art and was then trained as an apprentice with Sir William Reynolds-Stephens.

After eighteen months in Reynolds-Stephens’ studio, Dobson moved to Devon and then to Cornwall, where he lived by selling paintings. In 1906, he obtained a scholarship to study at the art institute in Arbroath and studied there for four years. From 1910 to 1912, Dobson attended the City and Guilds of London Art School in Kennsington, after which he returned to Cornwall. In Newlyn, he met Augustus John, who used his influence and contacts to enable Dobson to stage a one-person show at the Chenil Gallery in London in 1914.

In 1915, during the First World War, Dobson enlisted in The Artists Rifles and served in France from October 1916 as a Lieutenant with the 5th Border Regiment. In January 1917, he developed a duodenal ulcer and returned to England.

Throughout the 1920s, Dobson focused increasingly on sculpture, exhibited work in several influential exhibitions, and played a leading role in some artistic groups. He was the only sculptor to take part in the 1920 Group X exhibition. He was a founding member of the London Artists Association and spent three years as President of the London Group between 1923 and 1927. Dobson exhibited at the Venice Biennale in both 1924 and 1926, was featured in the 1925 Tri-National Exhibition, which visited London, Paris, and New York, and was also included in the 1926 European artists exhibition that toured America and Canada. Dobson was appointed head of sculpture at the Royal College of Art in 1946, a post he held until his retirement in 1953. He was elected to the Royal Academy in 1953.

Dobson died in 1963, and his ashes were scattered in the Thames. In 1995, the art critic Brian Sewell recalled the great loss of much of Frank Dobson’s work after his death,

“After his death, his widow asked me to help her clear the studio at Stamford Bridge, and I was appalled at the destruction that she wrought, smashing to smithereens small clay and terracotta models, tearing fine drawings in red and black chalk, hundreds of them, buring [sic?] the fragments in a dustbin…I was allowed to save pastel drawings of exotic and rare birds, and watercolours of farmyards and a pastoral life long gone.”

The present selection represents a rare collection of original works depicting birds. This subject was indeed one Dobson held dear because his father, Frank Dobson Sr., was a flora and fauna artist.

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