Sidney Dickinson: A Connecticut Yankee in King Cotton’s Court

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A prolific portraitist who painted a number of members of the Rockefeller family as well as New York City mayor Fiorello LaGuardia, Sidney Dickinson (1890 – 1980) studied with William Merritt Chase and George Bridgman at the Art Students League.

Sidney later taught for more than twenty-five years, keeping a nearby studio at Carnegie Hall. Dickinson exhibited extensively throughout the Northeast and was an active member of the National Academy of Design, serving as a jury member for a number of years before becoming a full Academician in 1927.

Born in Wallingford, Connecticut, Dickinson occasionally visited Calhoun, Alabama, where his parents worked with his maternal aunt, Charlotte Thorn, at the Calhoun Colored School. With guidance from Booker T. Washington, Thorn established the Calhoun Colored School in 1892. Dickinson traveled to Alabama in 1926, when he was commissioned to paint the portrait of former Alabama Governor Thomas Kilby. During this visit, he also painted the two Montgomery landscapes, which feature a large central building with chimney-like projections. The building is Kilby Prison, named for the former governor. Dickinson juxtaposed cotton fields with looming industrial buildings to portray Alabama’s transition from an agrarian to an industrial economy after World War I. Over an extended time, Dickinson completed these paintings, some of which he later exhibited at the National Academy of Design and the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts. His portraits are also owned by the Figge Museum, Harvard University, the University of Iowa, Princeton University, and the United States Department of State.

Sidney Dickinson: A Connecticut Yankee in King Cotton’s Court is on view at Greenville County Museum of Art through September 16th, 2018. The museum is located in the center of downtown Greenville’s cultural campus, Heritage Green, at 420 College Street. It is open Wednesday through Saturday from 10:00 am until 6:00 pm and on Sundays from 1:00 pm until 5:00 pm. Admission is free!

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(Image: Emma. 1917. Oil on canvas by Sidney Dickinson.)