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Dickens and the Artists

19 June – 28 October 2012
Exhibition Gallery

Dickens and the Artists explores Dickens’ view of art and artists and the significant influence that his writings had upon the art of his age.

‘There is no writer, in my opinion, who is so much a painter and a black-and-white artist as Dickens.’

Vincent van Gogh, March 1883  

Charles Dickens liked art and artists. He bought and commissioned art for his walls and counted amongst his close friends a high proportion of artists. In fact Dickens thought a lot about art and his novels are full of vivid descriptions that his artist daughter observed could only have been written by ‘a writer with an innate feeling for artistic effect.’

His characters and novels inspired artists to create paintings of them, and Little Nell in particular proved a favourite to a great number of artists. Dickens also gave a new freedom to artists who painted genre scenes to move from depicting costumed paintings set in the past to up-to-date scenes of the world around them. The social themes, so strong and trenchant in Dickens, also motivated artists to paint the poor and the dispossessed.

The exhibition explores both what Dickens thought about art and artists and what artists thought about Dickens. The first section, Dickens as Art Critic explores his tastes and artistic friendships; his strong like and dislikes. The second, The Influence of Dickens on the Artists, looks the profound impact that Dickens made upon a generation of artists, not only who those drew upon his novels as a source for painting but those who created a painterly equivalent to his novels, rich visual narratives of the Dickensian world.

Dickens and the Artists Exhibition CatalogueIncluding major works by leading nineteenth century artists including Frith, Fildes, and Hicks as well works from Dickens’ own art collection, the exhibition displays the Dickensian vision in Victorian painting.

Exhibition Catalogue:

Dickens and the Artists

Edited by Mark Bills
Published by Yale
Now £15 (exclusive to Watts Gallery)
Supported by The Paul Mellon Centre

Exhibition Highlights