DEXTER, William (1818-1860)


DEXTER, William (1818-1860)
artist
was born at Melbourne, Derbyshire, England, in 1818. He became an apprentice at the Derby China factory, and painted flowers and birds in the Chinese and Japanese styles. He then studied at Paris, and returning to England, married Caroline Harper at Nottingham in 1843. He had a picture in the exhibition of the Royal Academy in 1851 and another in the following year. He then sailed to Australia and arrived at Sydney on 8 October 1852. He was at Bendigo in August 1853, where William Howitt heard him advocating republican doctrines at a meeting of diggers. His wife came out front England at the end of 1854, and in March 1855 they together opened a gallery of arts and school of design in Bathurst-street, Sydney. This apparently was not a success for they went to live at Stratford, Victoria, in 1856, and there made the acquaintance of Angus McMillan (q.v.). In 1857 Dexter exhibited six oils and three watercolours at the first exhibition of the Victorian Society of Fine Arts, held at Melbourne. Shortly afterwards he returned to Sydney, became a partner in a sign-writing business, and died there in 1860. He was survived by his wife who was born at Nottingham in 1819. In 1858 she wrote and published the Ladies Almanack, 1858, The Southern Cross or Australian Album and New Year's Gift. In 1861 she married William Lynch, a prosperous Melbourne solicitor, who afterwards formed the Lynch collection of pictures. She died at Melbourne in 1884.
Dexter is, practically speaking, only known by one picture, his exceedingly capable "Wood Ducks" in the national gallery at Melbourne. A few others are in private hands at Melbourne and Sydney.
W. Moore, The Story of Australian Art; A. Graves, The Royal Academy Exhibitors; Wm Howitt, Land, Labour and Gold, vol. I; Art in Australia, February 1931; Catalogue of Exhibition of Victorian Society of Fine Arts, 1857.

Dictionary of Australian Biography by PERCIVAL SERLE. . 1949.

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