Advanced Search

The Garden, Reigate Castle

On view

The Garden, Reigate Castle

Artist: Sarah Ball Dodson (American, 1847 - 1906)

Date: c. 1891
Medium: Oil on canvas
Overall: 20 × 23in. (50.8 × 58.4cm)
Markings: Verso: 'Prepared by / WINDSOR NEWTON, / Limited / 88 Rathbone Place, / London, W. / 438307'
Credit Line: Proctor Collection
Object number: PC. 39
Label Text
Sarah Paxton Ball Dodson was born in 1847 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, the only daughter of Richard Whatcoat Dodson and Harriet Ball Dodson. Although Dodson was a naturally adept artist, at the age of three creating a series of illustrations inspired by the fanciful bedtime stories she had been told, this talent was not encouraged by her family. Richard Whatcoat Dodson had very little sympathy for his daughter's artistic efforts, refusing to consider the field of art as a serious pursuit for his undeniably talented daughter. It was not until five years after her father's death that, in 1872 at the age of twenty-five Dodson began her formal art training, enrolling in art classes conducted by Christian Schussele (1824-79) at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts. By 1873 Dodson had established herself in Paris where she studied with Evariste Vital Luminais (1822-96), under whose guidance she remained for three years. Beginning in 1877, when she first showed at the Paris Salon, Dodson's works display an eagerness to align herself with the grand manner tradition of the Renaissance, through her choice of elevated, didactic subjects related to religious, historical, and mythological themes. Her fascination with the humanistic ideals of the Renaissance was heightened following her travels to Italy and Spain, where she was introduced to many Renaissance masterworks that helped to increase her repertoire of Classical subjects and themes. Despite her long residence abroad, Dodson never lost her allegiance to Philadelphia, returning in 1885 in order to execute a series of mural-sized canvases of patriotic, American themes, two of which were displayed in the Pennsylvania State Building at the World's Columbian Exposition in 1893. Settling permanently in Brighton, England in 1891, the ever fragile Dodson suffered a serious, yet still unknown illness in 1893 from which she never recovered, continuing to paint, though in a diminished capacity until the very day she died on January 8, 1906.
Sarah Paxton Ball Dodson's The Garden, Reigate Castle, painted in 1891, is one of a series of soft, poetic landscapes the artist painted of the English countryside surrounding her Brighton, England home. This work depicts the verdant gardens surrounding Reigate Castle in Surrey, England, a dilapidated, circa 12th century castle. In this scene the lush, colorful garden of the Reigate Castle in Surrey, England is captured through Dodson's fluid application of rich, almost opalescent shades of reds, greens, purples, and yellows, creating the illusion of a stunning English garden in full bloom. This work poignantly reflects the artist's failing state of heath as the previously carefully composed and meticulously executed mythological and religious works of her early career gave way to softer and more poetic landscape compositions, reflecting Dodson's loss of the energy needed to execute the monumental canvases of her past. While documentation detailing how the Proctor family acquired this painting is not available, the work was listed as painting #67 in the catalogue of "The Exhibition of Paintings by Sarah Ball Dodson - the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, April 16 - May 14, 1911," perhaps suggesting a purchase date of around that time.

Gordon Dearborn Wilkins
Hamilton College Intern, 2010

No known copyright restrictions.