Study for 'Startled', ca. 1892
Sir Frank Dicksee PRA (1853 - 1928)
RA Collection: Art
A preparatory study in pencil and chalk showing the younger girl in Frank Dicksee's Diploma work, Startled (03/1039), contre-jour. The painting depicts a young woman and a girl who have been surprised while bathing by what appears to be a Viking long-ship. When exhibited the critic for the journal The Academy found the subject confusing, saying that 'it does not appertain exactly to idealistic or realistic art, and halts, indeed, somewhat unsatisfactorily between the two' (7 May 1892, p. 450). Unlike most of Dicksee's previous work there is no quotation appended to the title, suggesting the subject is imaginary rather than based on a literary source.
Dicksee believed that Greek sculpture displayed human form to perfection. The study of the nude figures in this painting reflects his debt to the academic tradition based on the study of the antique. Composing his pictures carefully, Dicksee made many preliminary studies. This detailed study of the younger girl is drawn in pencil outline with strong highlights in white chalk illuminating one side of the body. The artist was primarily investigating the effect of light falling from behind and the white highlights in this study were translated into a golden glow from the setting sun behind the figures in the final picture.
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