Artist biography

English sculptor, painter and designer. The few surviving paintings from before 1914 show the influence of such French painters as Paul Cézanne and Paul Gauguin. By the time Dobson enlisted in the Artists' Rifles in October 1914 he had begun to carve. In 1920 he was selected by Wyndham Lewis as the only sculptor in the ‘Group X' exhibition. His first post-war carvings exhibit an aggressive angularity, which suggests a conscious intention to adopt the Vorticist style of Henri Gaudier-Brzeska and Jacob Epstein. This was a short-lived phase, and from the mid 1920s Dobson was to concentrate on the naked female figure treated in a calm, simplified monumental fashion. The most obvious affinity was with the work of Aristide Maillol. Unlike some contemporaries Dobson had an undogmatic view of the relative values of carving and modelling. In this respect his attitude was close to that of Roger Fry who praised his work as ‘true and pure sculpture' because of its lack of literary or illustrative elements. The limitation of the emotional range of Dobson's work (he regarded any violent action as unsuitable subject-matter) was viewed as positive.

His concentration on the human figure as a vital source of inspiration distanced him from modernist practice in the 1930s. Subsequently the apparent lack of development in his work, his professorship at the Royal College of Art (1946) and his membership of the Royal Academy led to his identification as part of the artistic establishment.

Bibliography
R. Mortimer: Frank Dobson (London, 1926)
Frank Dobson (exh. cat., ed. F. Watson; ACGB, 1966)
M. Easton: ‘Frank Dobson's Cornucopia', Burl. Mag., cxi (1969), pp. 382–6
True and Pure Sculpture: Frank Dobson (exh. cat., ed. R. Hopper; U. Cambridge, Kettle's Yard, 1981)

JOHN GLAVES-SMITH

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