'William Dyce is arguably one of the greatest painters to come out of Scotland and certainly the greatest out of Aberdeen.'
Titian Preparing to Make his First Essay in Colouring, 1856–57, by William Dyce RA (1806–64), 36in by 27¾in, Aberdeen Art Gallery
Martin Gilbert says:
William Dyce is arguably one of the greatest painters to come out of Scotland and certainly the greatest out of Aberdeen. His work in the robing room of the House of Lords may be his most famous, but my personal favourite is Titian Preparing to Make his First Essay in Colouring. Every time I go to the Aberdeen Art Gallery, I am drawn to this amazing piece of art. The precision of the painting is astounding and the subject matter is so interesting and different to most of his religious-themed works.
Martin Gilbert is CEO of Aberdeen Asset Management
John McEwen comments on Titian Preparing to Make his First Essay in Colouring:
William Dyce, best known for his Arthurian frescoes in the House of Lords, anticipated and was influenced by the art of the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood and must surely be the only artist to have produced an academic paper on ‘electro-magnetism’. He had a strong sense of public duty and directed Britain’s first School of Design, answering an urgent need created by the industrial Revolution. Painting for him was a relief from administration.
Dyce was the third son of Dr William Dyce, a Scottish physician who lectured at the second of Aberdeen’s medieval universities, Marischal College. He received his MA in medicine and theology at 17, but was determined to be an artist and, armed with his most ambitious picture, secured a berth on a fishing smack to London, where he broached Sir Thomas Lawrence, president of the Royal Academy. His father relented and young William entered the Royal Academy Schools.
Dyce’s crucial artistic experience was two visits to Rome in the 1820s. A High Anglican by upbringing and inclination, he was inspired by sacred Renaissance art. He later encouraged the most religious of the Pre-Raphaelites, William Holman Hunt, at the outset of his career and first persuaded Ruskin of the young painter’s merit.
This minutely detailed, brightly coloured picture shows his own debt to Pre-Raphaelitism. it tells the legend of the boy Titian using floral juices for pigment, in this case to decorate a statue—Dyce’s covert plea for a Protestant return to the Catholic practice of coloured statues in churches. Ruskin congratulated him: ‘you have beat everybody this time for thoroughness.’