|Girl with a Fan, 1864|
Watercolor and gouache.
The Victoria & Albert Museum
Influenced by the tastes and styles of their Queen, the Victorian public preferred idealized portraits of young girls. Such depictions arose beginning with Queen Victoria's reign as the fresh-faced young woman took the throne. Since the queen was an attractive young lady, similarly innocent faces became the subject of oil paintings, watercolors and prints of all kinds.
This painting by William Charles Thomas Dobson (RA, RWS, 1817-1898) is rendered in watercolor and gouache. It was described in the words of a contemporary as having “a roundness and sweetness which is never sensual.”
William Dobson began his career as a prolific painter of religious themes. His greatest hope was to revive popular interest religious art. Nevertheless, the audience was limited and Dobson went on to paint less ponderous subjects like this attractive picture. Dobson often peppered his works with a stylized orientalism which successfully increased their public appeal. From 1842 until 1894 he exhibited many paintings in this style at the Royal Academy.
Here, we see Dobson’s rather inaccurate depiction of an Asian girl in a turban and a striped silk brocade robe. It was painted in 1864, not from life, but in his studio, using props which Dobson thought would seem authentically Asian.