The Courtauld Gallery is one of several prestigious art institutions collaborating with Sunday Times art critic Waldemar Januszczak and ZCZ Films on a timely celebration of artist, William Dobson’s (1611-1646) life and work; 2011 marks the 400th anniversary of his birth. Research by Waldemar Januszczak and the ensuing media attention have provided impetus for The Courtauld Gallery to display the remarkable painting from 12 September to 11 December 2011. Waldemar Januszczak will discuss The Courtauld Gallery’s double portrait in a special talk at The Courtauld on 19 October. This free lecture will follow the broadcast of Januszczak’s film William Dobson: The Lost Genius of British Art, broadcast on BBC4 on 22 September 2011. There is also a second, shorter film revealing research that unearthed the true identity of the sitters in An Old and a Younger Man, which is planned for broadcast on BBC4 later this year.
Although a little known artist, Dobson is nonetheless considered to be one of Britain’s finest Baroque portraitists. He became principal painter to Charles I on the death of Van Dyck in 1641, and with the outbreak of the English Civil War the following year 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 in 1646, Dobson returned to London, where, perhaps due to his Royalist leanings, aged just 35, he died in poverty. Although tragically short, Dobson’s career was hugely significant as witness to one of the most tumultuous epochs in British history.
The Courtauld possesses one of Dobson’s most accomplished and intriguing pictures, Portrait of an Old and a Younger Man. The two richly dressed gentlemen have generally been recognised as a father and son lost in private grief, perhaps at the death of a wife or mother. However, recent research by Januszczak has identified them as two poets exiled in Oxford with Charles I during the English Civil War. The older man is John Taylor (1578-1653), a notorious London figure, nicknamed the Water-Poet. Before developing his literary ambitions, Taylor began his career ferrying people across the Thames at Southwark, and during the English Civil War, as an ardent Royalist he joined the King in Oxford where he was made the official Water Bailiff. The younger man is Sir John Denham (1614/5-1669), a more typical gentleman poet of the times, and author of the first great topographic poem in the English language, Cooper’s Hill. Centred on a description of the Thames, Cooper’s Hill is actually a poetic rumination upon British history from a Royalist perspective. Having been governor of Farnham Castle, Denham also joined the King in Oxford in 1643.
These new findings and the ensuing media attention have provided impetus for The Courtauld Gallery to display the remarkable painting from 12 September to 11 December 2011. Waldemar Januszczak will discuss The Courtauld Gallery’s double portrait in a special talk at The Courtauld on 19 October. Kenneth Clark Lecture Theatre, The Courtauld Institute of Art, open from 19.00
Talk starts 19.30.