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Dyce, William

William DYCE (1806-64) was born in Aberdeen, a doctor’s son. He became a London resident (after travels in Italy) and associated with the Pre-Raphaelites. He was mainly interested in producing sober religious and historical pictures but also found that holiday paintings were particularly well-received.

In 1859 Dyce travelled to Arran, painting A Scene in Arran (Aberdeen Gallery). It shows his family in a burnside setting (probably the lower reaches of Brodick’s Rosa Burn), the children playing with wooden washing- tubs and wading out into the water. Not originally intended for exhibition, this painting was made for James Brand of Milnathorpe, the artist’s father-in-law.

In 1859 Dyce also painted Goatfell (Victoria & Albert Museum); Study of a Distant Range of Mountains – Beinn Nuis from Glenrosa (Ashmolean Museum, Oxford); Glen Sannachs; A Study of Foliage; and two further views of Glen Rosa.

Dyce employed views of Arran’s mountain scenery to provide the setting for a number of biblical pictures, including David in the Wilderness and The Man of Sorrows (National Galleries Scotland). Having commenced these works outdoors in summer, apparently working directly and not requiring preparatory watercolour sketches, Dyce added figures to the same landscapes in his studio during the winter. (Dyce’s decision to use scenery familiar to him as a substitute for that of the Holy Land was unfashionable and attracted criticism, some people thinking it absurd that he should have elected to place biblical figures in the landscape of the British Isles - it would have been more in keeping with the code of the Pre-Raphaelites had he sought to give the pictures an authentic setting).

In 1860 Dyce wrote to his brother-in-law enthusing about the financial benefits of working holidays and remarking upon the large profit which his 1859 trip to Arran had yielded.

Dyce collapsed and later died (1864) whilst working on frescoes at the newly completed Palace of Westminster in London.

Colin Cowley (2005) ‘Arran Art’

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