Artist Biography: Edwin W. Dickinson

Edwin W. Dickinson (1891-1978)

Edwin Dickinson (October 11, 1891–December 1, 1978) was an American painter and draftsman known for his psychologically charged self-portraits and landscapes. His art, always grounded in realism, shows connections to symbolism and surrealism. Dickinson was born and raised in upstate New York, in the Finger Lakes area; his family moved to Buffalo in 1897. The death of his mother from tuberculosis in 1903, the suicide in 1913 of his older brother, Burgess, and his father’s remarriage in 1914 to a much younger woman have all been cited as influences on the themes of his later work. Dickinson had youthful ambitions for a career in the Navy, but he failed the Navy entrance exam twice (though he later served as a radio operator during World War I). In 1911 he enrolled at the Art Students League of New York, where he studied under William Merritt Chase. In the summers of 1912 and 1913 he stayed in Provincetown, Massachusetts, where he took a class taught by Charles W. Hawthorne. After concluding his formal studies in 1913, Dickinson lived and taught in Provincetown for several years. His mature paintings can be roughly divided into two categories: The first consists of portraits, still lifes and landscapes executed quickly, often at a single sitting (the artist referred to these as premiere coups); the second is comprised of compositions of symbolic and enigmatic character, often large in size and very complex, which sometimes took many years to complete. While his palette tended towards monochrome, his landscapes painted from observation are notable for their strong evocation of light, which is usually hazy but sometimes brilliant. His paintings are often allusively autobiographical in content. His drawings in graphite are notable for their sensitivity to tonal nuance.

Pratt Institute Art School
National Academy of Design
Art Students League
Buffalo Fine Arts Academy
and with William M. Chase and Charles Hawthorne

Selected Exhibitions:
Corcoran Gallery of Art, 1916, 1928-‘57
Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Art, 1917-’22,‘29-’31,‘44-’49,’60,’64, ’66 (solo), 2003 (solo)
National Academy of Design, 1918,’49,’82,’89-92, 2003 (solo)
Luxembourg Museum, Paris, 1919
Art Institute of Chicago, 1920
Carnegie Institute, 1921
Jeu de Pomme, Paris, 1938
Albright [Knox] Art Gallery, 1927 (solo), 2002 (solo)
Museum of Modern Art, 1938,’43,’52,’54,’61-’63, ’76
Whitney Museum of American Art, 1965 (solo),’66
Brooklyn Museum of Art
World’s Fair of New York, 1964
Everson Museum of Art, 1977
Joseph Hirshhorn Museum, 1980(solo)

Selected Collections:
National Museum of American Art
Museum of Modern Art
Whitney Museum of American Art
Art Institute of Chicago
Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts
Museum of Fine Arts, Boston
National Academy of Design
Philadelphia Museum of Art
Virginia Museum of Fine Arts
Baltimore Museum of Art
Corcoran Gallery of Art
Albright-Knox Art Gallery
Metropolitan Museum of Art
Los Angeles County Museum of Art
Chrysler Museum of Art
Joseph Hirshhorn Museum