Signed bottom right Art Gallery collection pre-1974

Seán Dixon (1905–1946)
Oil on canvas, 32 x 33.3
Dublin Civic Museum; LCGA
Theo Snoddy, Dictionary of Irish Artists, 20th Century, 2nd ed., Dublin, 2002, pp 140–41; Father Matthew Record, January 1934
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Seán Dixon’s career as an artist is as unusual as it is significant. He was born, a sickly child, in Dublin’s Liberties, then an area of great deprivation. His father believed in education as a way out of poverty and sent his son to the Model School, Inchicore. At the age of sixteen he decided to become a painter, attending evening classes at the DMSA, then run on very academic lines. Dixon rejected the constraints of academic art initially and aligned himself to the rebellious group, the Associated Irish Artists, in 1932.His work was accepted into the RHA in 1933, and he continued to show there almost every year until 1943. His most widely discussed project was a commissioned portrait of Matt Talbot (d.1925), a reformed alcoholic, revered for his holiness around Dublin’s inner city. Since no photograph of the man could be found, Dixon attracted a great deal of attention by basing his portrait on approximately one thousand interviews with people who had known Matt Talbot and hundreds of drawings. A series of these in 1935 was shown in a solo exhibition at the Angus Gallery, Dublin. The first of a number of exhibitions of his work at the Country Shop on Saint Stephen’s Green (1936) was opened by Seán Keating (see p. ??), a considerable affirmation for an artist so early in his career and Dixon established himself as a painter of portraits. Sitters included Alfie Byrne, Lord Mayor of Dublin from 1930–39, the playwright T.C. Murray, comedian Jimmy O’Dea, and posthumous portraits of Arthur Griffith, founder of Sinn Fein, and the writer Padraic O’Conaire. Following his untimely death at the age of 41, a commemorative exhibition of his paintings and drawings was held at the Country Shop.Dixon painted landscapes and cityscapes, some of which were probably painted from photographs. Nonetheless, the best ones have a freshness that suggests that they were painted in situ. A bit of South King Street, Dublin very accurately reflects the routine street life of Dublin in the 1930s and ’40s. Dixon has chosen to look towards the west end of the street to include the junction with Mercer Street and the former Mercer’s Hospital with its distinctive stone bulk and its clock tower. By doing so he turned his back on the fashionable end of the street, dominated by the Gaiety Theatre, in favour of the more ordinary activities of urban life.