Signed K. Dobbin Donated by the artist, 1946
Kate Dobbin née Wise was born in Bristol, where her father was a solicitor. She married an Irishman, Alfred Graham Dobbin, a successful businessman in Cork City. She moved to Cork and attended the Crawford School of Art there from 1891 until 1895. Her husband became High Sherriff of Cork in 1900 and was knighted by Queen Victoria on her visit to the city in 1901. The couple lived in a large house in Montenotte until the last years of their lives when they moved into the Imperial Hotel in Cork City, where she died. Lady Dobbin specialised in painting landscapes in a soft, loose, almost Impressionist style which has been likened to that of her acquaintance, the better-known Rose Barton. Her preferred medium was watercolour and she was an active member of the WCSI with whom she showed regularly. In addition, she exhibited over 100 pictures with the RHA between 1894 and 1947. Belfast Museum and Gallery held a loan exhibition of her work in 1913 and she was included in J. Crampton Walker’s Exhibition of Irish Artists at the Fine Arts Society, London, in May 1927. Paul Henry’s depictions of the landscape of the west of Ireland achieved such instant popularity in the early years of the Free State that it became almost obligatory to paint a welcoming cottage, with pristine white-washed walls and golden thatch. These images helped to sell the west to visitors, but did not fully reflect the poverty, emigration and abandonment that was the all-too-familiar reality for the first half of the twentieth century. Lady Kate Dobbin offers an altogether more honest if less comforting landscape. The roofline of her cottage is spiky and uneven, the white-wash, is long gone from the walls and the life of the peasant occupiers is isolated. But Dobbin invests the scene with a charm that is all the more attractive because it has not been idealised.