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William Dobson

(1611-1646), Portrait painter

Sitter in 9 portraits
Artist associated with 54 portraits
Born in London, Dobson was probably the son of a lawyer. He studied under the painter and publisher, William Peake, and the artist, Francis Cleyn, and probably through him came to know the paintings of Titian and van Dyck. Painter of the embattled Royalists, he was active during the Civil War both with the Royal Court in Oxford, and in London, as Principal Painter to the King. He returned to London after the defeat of the king by parliament and was briefly imprisoned for debt. He died in poverty aged thirty-five and was buried in St Martin-in-the-Fields. An elegy by Thomas Rawlins commemorated him as 'the very Soul of Art, the Prince and Prime of Painters'.

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Abraham van der Doort, possibly after William Dobson - NPG 1569

Abraham van der Doort

possibly after William Dobson
oil on canvas
NPG 1569

William Dobson, after a self-portrait by William Dobson - NPG 302

William Dobson

after a self-portrait by William Dobson
oil on canvas, (circa 1642-1646)
NPG 302

Richard Neville, by William Dobson - NPG 5382

Richard Neville

by William Dobson
oil on canvas, circa 1643
On display in Room 5 at the National Portrait Gallery
NPG 5382

Probably Nicholas Oudart, by William Dobson - NPG 288

Probably Nicholas Oudart

by William Dobson
oil on canvas, circa 1645
NPG 288

Sir Edward Nicholas, by William Dobson - NPG 6104

Sir Edward Nicholas

by William Dobson
oil on canvas, feigned oval, circa 1645
NPG 6104

William Dobson, by George White, after  William Dobson - NPG D28285

William Dobson

by George White, after William Dobson
mezzotint, (circa 1642-1646)
NPG D28285

William Dobson, by George White, after  William Dobson - NPG D28288

William Dobson

by George White, after William Dobson
mezzotint, (circa 1642-1646)
NPG D28288

William Dobson, by George White, after  William Dobson - NPG D1764

William Dobson

by George White, after William Dobson
mezzotint, (circa 1642-1646)
NPG D1764

William Dobson, by George White, after  William Dobson - NPG D1765

William Dobson

by George White, after William Dobson
mezzotint, (circa 1642-1646)
NPG D1765

King Charles II, by William Faithorne, after  William Dobson - NPG D22693

King Charles II

by William Faithorne, after William Dobson
line engraving, circa 1646
NPG D22693

Endymion Porter, by William Faithorne, published by  Thomas Rowlett, after  William Dobson - NPG D22906

Endymion Porter

by William Faithorne, published by Thomas Rowlett, after William Dobson
line engraving, circa 1646 (circa 1643-1645)
NPG D22906

William Dobson, by Josias English, after  William Dobson - NPG D35333

William Dobson

by Josias English, after William Dobson
etching, 1646-1649
NPG D35333

William Dobson, by Josias English, published by  Thomas Rowlett, after  William Dobson - NPG D2277

William Dobson

by Josias English, published by Thomas Rowlett, after William Dobson
etching, circa 1646-1649
NPG D2277

Endymion Porter, by William Faithorne, published by  Thomas Rowlett, after  William Dobson - NPG D20268

Endymion Porter

by William Faithorne, published by Thomas Rowlett, after William Dobson
line engraving, circa 1646 (circa 1643-1645)
NPG D20268

Robert Devereux, 3rd Earl of Essex, by William Faithorne, published by  Peter Stent, after  William Dobson - NPG D22905

Robert Devereux, 3rd Earl of Essex

by William Faithorne, published by Peter Stent, after William Dobson
line engraving, published 1653-1663
NPG D22905

Prince Rupert, Count Palatine, by William Faithorne, published by  Peter Stent, after  William Dobson - NPG D22928

Prince Rupert, Count Palatine

by William Faithorne, published by Peter Stent, after William Dobson
line engraving, published 1662
NPG D22928

James Graham, 1st Marquess of Montrose, after William Dobson - NPG D27059

James Graham, 1st Marquess of Montrose

after William Dobson
line engraving, 18th century
NPG D27059

James Graham, 1st Marquess of Montrose, by George Vertue, after  William Dobson - NPG D27068

James Graham, 1st Marquess of Montrose

by George Vertue, after William Dobson
line engraving, early 18th century
NPG D27068

Sir George Lisle and Sir Charles Lucas, by George Vertue, after  William Dobson, after  Unknown artist - NPG D27197

Sir George Lisle and Sir Charles Lucas

by George Vertue, after William Dobson, after Unknown artist
line engraving, early 18th century
NPG D27197

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Lynne Parry-Griffiths

17 May 2017, 13:20

Dobson's father also called William, died as 'a prisoner in the Fleet' 28 Aug 1625. This possibly contributes to the legend that Will Dobson himself was also prone to being 'irregular' and 'loose' in his way of living, given that he too was imprisoned (apparently for debt) before his untimely death.

Rosalinda Jones

13 March 2017, 19:41

Dobson's father was probably not a painter by profession, but a lawyer. He was admitted to the Inner Temple around 1592/3. The only known written mention of him is by John Aubrey, from whose words a likely misunderstanding over Dobson's occupation has arisen. Dobson worked for the Statue Office in Holborn until about 1611, when he moved to St Albans. He apparently also worked at the Alienation Office, but evidence for this is still being sought. He was employed by Sir Francis Bacon on the building of Verulam House at Gorhambury around this time, being called Bacon's 'right hand man'. From surviving receipts from Bacon's papers (sourced by Daphne du Maurier in her book on Bacon, "The Winding Stair" (1976)), he appears to have been a foreman, or some kind of legal advisor on the build, rather than a painter. If he was a painter, no evidence of this has been found.

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