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 Sarah Paxton Ball Dodson  (1847 - 1906)

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Lived/Active: Pennsylvania / France      Known for: allegory-historic, dance, landscape

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This biography from the Archives of AskART:
Sarah Dodson was an expatriate painter of classical and Biblical subjects in the grand manner of the nineteenth-century academies. Born in Philadelphia, she studied in 1872 with the history painter, Christian Schussele, at the Pennsylvania Academy, and then in Paris with Evariste Luminais and Jules Lefebvre.

Her theatrical painting "Bacidae" (1883), was one of a series of salon pictures done in a bold and energetic style. It shows two priestesses of Bacis an ancient crone and younger woman in the divine ecstasy of prophecy after consulting the reeking entrails of a chicken. This work includes the customary trappings of classical furniture and costumes. The paint is applied in a vigorous manner with a rich color scheme of purple, white, and blue-green, heightened by a red accent of blood on the floor. Another well-known work by Dodson is her large canvas "The Signing of the Declaration of Independence" (1883).

In her late style, Dodson turned toward symbolism, becoming mystical and poetic, somewhat in the manner of Henry Tanner, the black expatriate artist of religious themes. Sarah Dodson moved to Brighton, England, and continued to paint landscapes in addition to figure paintings. Long in frail health, she became seriously ill in 1893, but nevertheless, continued to work until her death in 1906.

(Information for the biography above is based on writings from the book, "American Women Artists", by Charlotte Streifer Rubinstein.)

Painter, Sarah Paxton Ball Dodson was born in Philadelphia in 1847. Dodson was the daughter of the engraver, illustrator, and portraitist Richard Whatcoat Dodson, who did little to encourage her early interest in drawing and illustrating. In 1872, after her father's death, Dodson began a year's study at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts under Christian Schussele. In 1873 she went to Paris, where she received instruction from Evariste Vital Luminais until 1876 and later from Lefebvre and Louis-Maurice Boutet de Monvel.

Dodson's early "rococo style" changed dramatically following a trip to Italy taken sometime between 1877 and 1879. Inspired by the Renaissance masters, she depicted her figures with classical form. In the late 1880s Dodson started painting plein-air landscapes that gained her wide spread appreciation for her work. She left France prior to 1891 and settled in Brighton, England where she had previously spent her summers. A chronic illness in 1893 left Dodson partially incapacitated, despite this she continued to paint the rest of her life.

She was recognized as one of the leading American women artists in Paris during the 1880s, Sarah Paxton Ball Dodson was a versatile painter whose oeuvre included religious and mythological subjects as well as landscapes. She was also known to paint gardens, dancers and figures. Dodson's body of work clearly demonstrates a wide artistic range. A critic in the Art Amateur wrote, "she was the only one of our countrywomen who seemed to wrestle with other than the simplest forms of conventional, lady-like art."

Dodson developed a growing interest in landscape painting during her late period and some of her best compositions are a result of that interest. It was also during this period that her oeuvre became increasingly symbolic and mystical. Dodson exhibited regularly at the Paris Salon from 1877 onward. She also exhibited at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts in 1883 and 1905; the National Academy of Design during the 1880s and 1890s; the Society of American Artists, 1878; the 1889 Paris Exposition and others. She passed away in Brighton, England in 1906.

Blake Benton Fine Art

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