Lowes Cato Dickinson Detailed Biography

Lowes Cato or Lowes Cato Dickinson was a famous English portrait painter of the Victorin Era and also a Christian socialist. He is known to have taught drawing with famous personalities like Dante Gabriel Rossetti and John Ruskin. He had been the founder of the Working Men’s College in London.

Life and Career of Lowes Cato Dickinson

Lowes Cato Dickinson was born on 27th November 1819 in Kilburn, London. He had been one of eleven siblings of his parents. Dickinson had obtained the first apprenticeship from his father, Joseph Dickinson, who had been a renowned lithographer and art publisher on Bond Street.

His mother was Anne Carter of Topsham, Devonshire, whose family were officers in the navy. Lowes Cato had also attended Topsham School and Dr. Lord’s School in Tooting.

Lowes Cato Dickinson
Dickinson, Lowes Cato; Henry Sidgwick (1838-1900), Fellow, Philosopher and Knightsbridge Professor (1883-1900); Trinity College, University of Cambridge

He started to partner with two of his eldest brothers by the name of Gilbert Bell Dickinson and William Robert Dickinson after the death of his father in 1849. The firm came to be known as the Dickinson Brothers in Bond Street. He had started to earn his own living at the tender age of 16.

The firm was not only responsible for publishing lithographs but also was photographers. The firm was an appointment to Queen Victoria. Many of Dickinson’s portraits were painted from photographers.

Dickinson, Lowes Cato, 1819-1908; Mrs Alice Westlake (1842-1923)
Dickinson, Lowes Cato, 1819-1908; Mrs. Alice Westlake (1842-1923)

This is because many of the people whose portraits were to be made were too busy to sit. There were others who would be abroad and some of the portraits to be made were of deceased people.

Dickinson would mostly invest his time to paint the faces, while other artists would be hired to paint the clothes. Dickinson was also known to have done ‘subscription pictures’, where people would pay to have themselves portrayed more or less prominently in a certain painting.

Rise to Fame

Lowes Cato Dickinson is known to have worked and corresponded with the central participants of the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood. He had lectured alongside Dante Gabriel Rossetti and John Ruskin. He maintained a warm interest in the proceedings until his death and had painted numerous paintings along the college walls.

John Russell-1st Earl Russell by Lowes Cato Dickinson
John Russell-1st Earl Russell by Lowes Cato Dickinson

The studio of Lowes Cato Dickinson was in the same building as John Everett Millais, the Langhans Chambers, which he had taken on his return to England from Italy and Sicily. He is also known to have taught Ford Madox Brown, who had worked for some time at the Dickinson Brothers.

He was also exhibited at the Royal Academy, the first time ever being before his journey to Italy for three years in the 1850s. He had subsequently been exhibited every year except three times between 1848 and 1891.

Cabinet of 1868 by Lowes Cato Dickinson
Cabinet of 1868 by Lowes Cato Dickinson

Dickinson had founded the Working Men’s College in London in the year 1854 with other Christian Socialists. The college was dedicated to providing a liberal education to artisans. He had always remained an enthusiastic follower of the Christian Socialist movement and have painted the other Christian Socialists.

They included Thomas Hughes, Charles Kingsley, John Malcolm Forbes Ludlow, Frederick James Furnivall, John Westlake, John Llewelyn Davies, Richard Buckley Litchfield and obviously the movement’s founder, Frederick Denison Maurice.

Lowes Cato Dickinson Biography

The group that included him was dedicated to infusing Christian ideals into the budding movement of social reform and the college became an important outcome of the movement. Lowes Cato Dickinson had taken an active part during the formation of the Artists’ volunteer rule corps in 1860. He had been the treasurer of the society.

Lowes Cato Dickinson Queen Victoria
Lowes Cato Dickinson Queen Victoria

His subjects also included Queen Victoria herself, the Prince of Wales, Princess Alice, Lord Kevin, Lord Napier of Magdala, the Duke of Argyll, George Grote, Viscount Goschen, Sir Henry Norman, Sir Henry Maine, Sir Arthur Helps, the Prime Minister and the cabinet, George Eliot and many scientists including William Thomson, Arthur Cayley, James Clerk Maxwell and Sir George Stokes.

Lowes Cato Dickinson Facts

In 1857, Dickinson married Margaret Ellen Williams. Among their sons was the writer Goldsworthy Lowes Dickinson and Arthur Lowes Dickinson. They also had five daughters. He had taken a cottage at Hanwell shortly after his marriage and had lived there from 1864 to 1879.

Lowes Cato Dickinson took his last breath on December 15, 1908, in a house that he had built for himself in All Souls Place. It was located north of Oxford Circus. He was buried at Kensal Green Cemetery. Dickinson’s papers can be found at Princeton, Cambridge and Oxford Universities.

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