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 James Dixon  (1887 - 1970)

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Lived/Active: Ireland      Known for: primitive landscape painting

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This biography from the Archives of AskART:
Please note: Artists not classified as American in our database may have limited biographical data compared to the extensive information about American artists.

The Irish artist and primitive landscape painter James Dixon was born on Tory Island, County Donegal, and aside from the occasional visit to the mainland, remained on the island all his life. He devoted himself to fishing and small farming.  He only started painting at the age of 72, after seeing a British painter - Derek Hill - at work on a landscape painting.  Hill encouraged Dixon and provided him with oils and other art materials, although Dixon made his own paintbrushes from donkey's hair.  In due course it was Hill who introduced Dixon's artworks to the art world, thus helping Dixon to become an important figure in the history of twentieth-century Irish painting.  His painting is seen as an excellent example of Outsider art.

Dixon's primitive paintings depicted a range of romantic unspoilt views of Tory Island. He used oils on paper and board, and his expressive brushwork and bold composition portrayed the raw everyday reality of life on the island. He also completed a number of drawings.

His story and creative talent is similar to that of the St. Ives School painter Alfred Wallis (1855-1942), who was "discovered" in Cornwall. Both men lived in remote, rugged areas, and both artists were celebrated for their portrayal of the sea and boats.

Dixon's paintings were exhibited at one-man shows at the New Gallery, Belfast (1966) and at the Dawson Gallery, Dublin (1968).

In 1999, the Irish Museum of Modern Art Dublin staged the comparative exhibition "Two Painters: Works by Alfred Wallis and James Dixon", as did the Tate Gallery, London, in the same year.

Today, Dixon's works are represented in several public collections, including: the Arts Council of Ireland; OPW, Arts Council of Northern Ireland; Hugh Lane Gallery, Dublin; and Ulster Museum, Belfast.

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