Historical Portraits Picture Archive

Portrait of Sir Basil Dixwell Bt. (1665-1750) 1681

Mary Beale (1633-99)

Portrait of Sir Basil Dixwell Bt. (1665-1750), Mary Beale
Oil on canvas
17th Century
29 x 24 1/4 inches 73.7 x 61.6 cm
Beale Diary. Notebook for the year 1681. (National Portrait Gallery) Lady Victoria Manners The Oxenden Collection Part I Connoisseur September 1914, vol. XL, p12 ill. J. H. Collins Baker Lely and the Stuart Portrait Painters. Ch. XXV Elizabeth Walsh and Richard Jeffree The Excellent Mrs Mary Beale London ILEA 1975 p31
The Excellent Mrs Mary Beale Geffrye Museum, London, 13th October - 21st December 1975 (21)
Mary Beale was not the only female painter in England, but her name alone has survived as that of the only woman to make a successful living, and to enjoy a flourishing practice as a portraitist.

The precise details of her training remain obscure: her father had been a member of the Painter-Stainers' Company, and had had his portrait painted by Robert Walker in the late 1640s. Walker was then pre-eminent among painters in London, particularly in the puritan circles that included Mary Beale's family, and it is, not unreasonably, supposed that Walker was her tutor in painting.

Her surviving works, however, suggest far more the artist who was a close friend of Sir Peter Lely and widely reckoned to be Van Dyck's most accomplished copyist. Her grasp of Lely's colouring is evident, but the pleasant and direct manner in which she treats her sitters is entirely her own.

By the time that Sir Basil Dixwell sat for his portrait in 1681 Mary Beale had acquired a reputation as a painter of children, and in her spare time produced a great many paintings of her own, by means of practice. Despite the artificial elements, such as the faux-Roman costume, that were a stock-in-trade of aristocratic portraiture, there is a freshness and an immediacy that Beale's contemporaries were seldom able to achieve.

She had already painted the sitter's younger brother Mark in January of that year: Sir Basil's sittings are recorded in Mrs Beale's diary as taking place on the 15th February -Sr. Basil Dixwell d.c.- 26th February, and finally on May 18th -Sir Basil Dixwells face fint.at 3 d p.

Sir Basil made a career in politics and royal service, being Auditor of the Excise and Governor of Dover Castle., which latter post he held for much of the reign of King William III. He was also Member of Parliament for the Port and Town of Dover. In the reign of Queen Anne he was dismissed from his employments, but he was restored on the accession of George I. At his death in 1750 the baronetcy became extinct, and his estates devolved upon his nephew, George Oxenden, in which family this portrait continued until 1931.
Philip Mould Ltd, 18-19 Pall Mall, London, SW1Y 5LU.Copyright Philip Mould Ltd.