George Dawe England

2-6-1781 St James, ENG – 10-15-1829 London, ENG

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Dawe, George

George Dawe would later become one of the most successful artists of his generation and an international celebrity of considerable fame and wealth. Although he is not well known today, it is less than 180 years since he became the First Portrait Painter of the Imperial Court in Russia.

George Dawe originally trained with his father as an engraver and became very accomplished from an early age. He later became mainly interested in painting and went on to study at the Royal Academy of Arts. He was elected an associate member of the Royal Academy in 1809 and became an Academician in 1814.

He collected old masters and studied modern and classical languages, philosophy and literature. He also studied anatomy as part of his pursuit of a better understanding of the human form and undertook human dissections in his own home as well as attending operations to improve his knowledge of the human body.

His painting of classical subjects won much praise and were the making of his early reputation but he was more interested in financial success and sought portraiture commissions which were lucrative and which brought him into contact with high society.

He enjoyed the patronage of the Duke and Duchess of Kent and also that of Princess Charlotte and Prince Leopold. In 1819 he traveled with the Duke of Kent through Europe. On this tour his painting of portraits of military staff and diplomats brought him to the attention of Alexander I who commissioned him to paint the portraits of senior Russian military staff who had successfully fought Napoleon. George Dawe went to live in St Petersburg and, from 1822 to 1828, painted over 300 portraits for the military collection at the Winter Palace with his assistants, Alexander Polyakov and Wilhelm August Golicke.

George Dawe became a celebrity throughout Europe and mixed with the Russian intellectual elite. In 1828 he was officially appointed First Portrait Painter of the Imperial Court.

Art Movement: Neoclassicism
Influenced: Alexander Polyakov, Wilhelm August Golicke
Traveled: Russia
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