Sir Frank Dicksee, P.R.A. 1853 - 1928
Photo: R.A./John Hammond
© Royal Academy of Arts, London
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Startled, 1892
Oil on canvas, 978 X 673 mm
Diploma Work given by Sir Frank Dicksee, P.R.A., accepted 1892
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Frank Dicksee's Diploma work depicts two girls 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 indebtedness to the academic tradition based on the study of the antique. Composing his pictures carefully, Dicksee made many preliminary studies for them. The Royal Academy collection holds a detailed study of the younger girl (09/2072), in which Dicksee was primarily investigating the effect of light falling from behind. The strong white chalk highlights in the study are translated into golden highlights in the final picture.

Frames associated with this work