This is the only known portrait of Goodall’s fellow artist Dighton. It must have been painted soon before or immediately after the sitter’s 1852 tour of Egypt, Syria, and Palestine. Images of Westerners dressed in exotic costume proliferated in this period marked by colonial expansion and increased travel to regions beyond Europe.
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Title:William Edward Dighton (1822–1853) in Middle Eastern Dress
Artist:Frederick Goodall (British, London 1822–1904 London)
Medium:Oil on canvas
Dimensions:21 × 15 1/2 in. (53.3 × 39.4 cm)
Credit Line:Gift of Kenneth Jay Lane, 2014
William Edward Dighton was a landscape painter and watercolorist who exhibited at the British Institution beginning in 1844 and the Royal Academy from 1848. In 1838 he became the assistant and pupil of William James Müller (1812–1845) in their native Bristol. In the fall of 1839 they moved to London where, early in 1840, they joined the Clipstone Street Academy; in emulation of Dutch seventeenth-century artists, one of the principal activities of this group was to bring low-life types from the streets into its improvised studio as models for sketching exercises. Dighton and Müller undertook a lengthy sketching expedition in France and Jersey in the summer of 1840, which resulted in the publication on August 1, 1841, of Müller’s Sketches of the Age of Francis I (Henry Graves & Co., London). In the same year or shortly afterward, seeking greater creative independence, Dighton left Müller's studio for another member of the Clipstone group, Frederick Goodall. Goodall was well established in the London art world: a son of the engraver Edward Goodall (1795–1870), he received early encouragement from leading figures such as John Ruskin, David Roberts, and J. M. W. Turner. He began exhibiting at the Royal Academy in 1838, at the age of sixteen, and was elected Associate Academician in 1852 (full membership followed in 1863); his reputation was based largely on Orientalist subjects.
The present work, modest in size and unsigned, is informal in character: it appears to be unfinished, particularly at the lower edge, and perhaps was executed as a study for an intended picture. (Any inscriptions present on the back of the canvas were obscured when it was lined.) The sitter wears Middle Eastern costume and holds a portfolio and a stylus, as if he were a draftsman or scribe. Images of Westerners dressed in this fashion proliferated in this period marked by colonial expansion and increased travel to regions beyond Europe. It evidently dates either soon before or after Dighton's 1852 tour through Egypt, Syria, and Palestine. No other likeness of Dighton is known.
The earliest documentation of this painting is the 1978 Spink stock book entry, which is also the source for the identification of author and sitter alike. In the 1990 Christie’s sale, the subject was identified as F. E. Lewis, although no person by this name has been linked to Goodall or Dighton; a more recent label on the stretcher identifies him as "John Fred"—presumably John Frederick Lewis—but this suggestion has been rejected by Briony Llewellyn (email, June 18, 2014, Department of European Paintings files). There are two main sources for the biography of Goodall, but neither the artist's memoir, The Reminiscences of Frederick Goodall, R.A. (London, 1902), nor the monograph by N. G. Slarke, Frederick Goodall, R. A. (published by the author, 1981), mentions Dighton. Biographical details concerning Dighton by his brother, George Dighton, are recorded in N. Neal Solly, Memoir of the Life of William James Müller (London, 1875); see also Francis Greenacre and Sheena Stoddard, W. J. Müller, 1812–1845, exh. cat. (Bristol, 1991).
Asher Ethan Miller 2014
[Spink, London, until 1978; stock no. K2 4392; sold on February 14, 1978, for £2,400]; European Foundation (until 1990; their sale, Sotheby's, New York, October 26, 1990, no. 85, as "Portrait of F. E. Lewis in Turkish Costume," to Lane); Kenneth Jay Lane, New York (from 1990)
Briony Llewellyn inRomantic Lebanon: The European View, 1700–1900. Exh. cat., The British Lebanese Association. London, 1986, p. 43.
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