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Talks with David Roche 2018 | 15 February

Charles Dixon: From Jacobite goldsmith to Royal miniaturist.

Join Mark Fraser for a revealing talk on a Jacobite goldsmith from Edinburgh who reinvented himself as a miniaturist during the 1745 uprising and painted Bonnie Prince Charlie; only to move to London and paint members of the Hanoverian Royal Family.

In 1757 two middle aged men sat facing one another, staring each other in the eyes, across a carefully lit London room. The older of the two, dressed in the casual style of intellectuals of the Age of Enlightenment, was Benjamin Franklin who was to become a founding father of the United States; the other, intent on the portrait he was drawing, was Charles Dixon, a Scottish miniature painter, whose name was forgotten within decades.

What would the two have spoken of during their hours together? Franklin, a recent arrival in London, surrounded himself with Scotsmen, and they had at least one close friend in common. Ever curious, he may have asked Dixon about ‘Bonnie Prince Charlie’ and the Jacobite uprising he had supported in 1745. Had he met the young Prince? Had he painted him? Perhaps too he wanted to know of the aftermath, what brought Dixon south, and how the artist could reconcile himself to paint the Hanoverian royal family, the brutal suppressors of his countrymen.

This imagined conversation is a jumping-off point to explore Dixon’s forgotten life, first as a Scottish master goldsmith in Dundee and Edinburgh, later as a portrait miniature painter in London and Bath. This study attempts to address the lack of attention that has been given to mid-18th century miniaturists, the equivalent of the portrait photographers of their day.

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