Contact us today +44 (0)1782 638100

The Life and Etchings of Herbert Dicksee

Debbie Porter

“Hard Times” was sold in our July Fine Art auction for £850!

Herbert Dicksee, 14th June 1862 – 20th February 1942, was an artist whose popularity endures to the present day, especially among dog enthusiasts.

Dicksee was born into an artistic family, with his father, John, being an artist himself. John was most well-known for elegant, romanticised portraits of beautiful young women. John’s brother, Thomas, was also a portraitist and painter of historical genre subjects, often inspired by the works of Shakespeare. Thomas would later be father to Margaret Dicksee, a painter of old world subjects, and Sir Frank Dicksee, another well-known and popular artist who would, in his last years, be president of the Royal Academy from 1924-1928. Herbert also had a sister, Amy, though little is known about her.

Herbert attended Slade School of Fine Art, London, where he studied under Alphonse Legros, another distinguished etcher. There, he would obtain a scholarship and earn several medals. At this time the school was still in its early years, having only been established in 1871.

Herbert’s early career revolved around black and white magazine and book illustrations, Christmas card designs, and he exhibited his first picture in 1881.

An example of one of his sympathetic hounds pictures, this etching of a girl with a wolfhound sold for £80 in our March 2022 Fine Art sale.

Herbert is most popularly associated with his series of sympathetic hounds, most often depicting melancholic young ladies being comforted by dogs. He produced these particularly during the First World War. Dicksee’s pictures were generally produced ‘from life’, and his most frequent model was actress Gladys Cooper.

An etching of Dicksee’s French Bulldog, Shaver. Credit:

Herbert was from a family of dog lovers, and his works would often feature his own pets. These included a bloodhound, a French bulldog named Shaver, as well as several pugs and bull terriers. Most often, however, were the appearance of deerhounds, which he tended to show in Scottish moorland environments. Incidentally, Shaver was unique in that Herbert also entered him into shows. On one occasion, for a show at Olympia, London, Herbert walked Shaver all the way from Hampstead in order to get some weight off him before entering the venue! Herbert owned as many as six dogs at one time, but this proved to be time consuming and a distraction from his work. Later, he would keep just a single toy spaniel.

This etching ‘The Ruined Temple’ sold for £220 in our March 2022 Fine Art sale.

Another aspect of Herbert’s work involved big cats – he enjoyed a fellowship at London Zoo, which kept such animals. He would often visit in the morning, before other visitors arrived to obstruct his view. His pictures of big cats included lions, leopards and tigers in various settings. Herbert’s children are understood to also have been included in his involvement with big cats, with a lion being led out which they could stroke. In fact, Herbert’s fascination with big cats was so great that a friend returning home from Africa even offered him a lion cub, but sense prevailed and he declined!

This Dicksee etching Against the Wind and Open Sky sold for £130 in our March 2022 Fine Art sale.

An aspect that elevated the quality of his works was the attention to detail in lighting, background and atmospheric effects, an appreciation for which he gained on a voyage to New Zealand after leaving school.

The success of Herbert’s artwork led to the distribution of prints and etchings of his best works by publishers such as Klackner of London. Additionally, Herbert exhibited at numerous locations, including the Fine Arts Society, Walker Art Gallery, Glasgow Institute of Fine Arts, Manchester City Art Gallery, Royal Academy and Royal Society of Painters, Etchers and Engravers. He also enjoyed the position of Art Master at the City of London School, and was a member of Langham Sketching Club, but found the extra two hours after a full day’s work too taxing and eventually left.

A lot of work went into Dicksee’s etchings. He would spend between three and four months on each one. Due to the glare of constantly staring at burnished copper sheet, he would occasionally wear blue tinted glasses while he worked. For illumination after dark, Herbert would set up a lamp shining through tissue paper.

This etching of “Where’s Master” sold in our July Fine Art sale for £90.

Among Dicksee’s more notable etching examples is “Where’s Master”, a commission from King Edward VII of his favourite terrier. “The Boyhood of Raleigh” (originally painted by Millais) is also a significant example, having been purchased by Lady Tate for over £5,000 and presented to the Tate Gallery in memory of her late husband. Another popular etching is “The Last Furrow”, which was inspired by a fleeting glimpse seen from a train near Harrow.

In his personal life, Herbert married Ella Crump in 1896, with whom he had 2 children: Dorothy, who would herself study art, and Maurice, who sadly died during the First World War. Herbert lived his whole life in London – first at Fitzroy Square, then Cranfield Gardens and later designing his own house in Hampstead.

This etching of an Irish Deerhound sold for £200 in our July Fine Art Sale

Upon Herbert’s death in 1942, Dorothy would be executor of his will, which directed her to destroy most of the plates for his etchings. Today, his works remain popular, especially with dog lovers, owing primarily to his series of sympathetic hounds.

How to Buy or Sell Herbert Dicksee Artwork at Auction

Potteries Auctions canidentify and provide valuations on a wide range of Dicksee artworks. Please get in touch with usto discuss how we can help you or request a call back if you are looking for an expert evaluation and are seeking to sell your Dicksee art.

Did you know we can collect your paintings from anywhere in the UK? We also offer solutions for shipping too. We can pack and safely post your goods, perfect for transporting pieces that have been bought via our online auctions.

We’d love to hear from you if you’ve got a piece you’re looking at selling at auction, so please get in touch!