08 March 2016

John Charles Dollman (1851-1934) – A Neglected Hove Artist and his family

Judy Middleton 2003 (revised 2016)

copyright © Museum of London)
Les Misérables by J.C. Dollman

John Charles Dollman

J.C. Dollman’s immediate forebears were
 fashionable hatters.
He was a very famous English artist in his time but his name is virtually unknown to the general public today.

The family originated in France where their surname was spelled ‘Doleman’. The artist’s grandfather and great-grandfather were hatters to the British royal family and apparently were great favourites at court; their business was located at 8 St James’s Street, London.

In 1851 the artist’s London-born father, also called John Charles Dollman, was established as a bookseller and stationer at 7 Western Road, Hove and he was aged 28. His wife Mary was aged 26 and their eldest child, a daughter called Selina, was one year old. Young John Charles was born at this address on 6 May 1851.

By 1861 the family were still living at 7 Western Road but had expanded to include Thomas Frederick 8, Herbert Purvis 5, Gertrude Eleanor 2, and six-month old Kate Maria. Today, the ground floor of 7 Western Road has been occupied by a laundrette for many years.

According to Henry Porter, writing in 1897, the artist W.J. Leatham, famous for his marine paintings, lived in rooms above Dollman’s Library. Whether or not there was any interaction between Leatham and Dollman is not known but by the age of sixteen Dollman’s painting skills were already being recognised.
copyright © D.Sharp
The front and the rear of John C. Dollman's
former bookshop at 7 Western Road, Hove

The following description from the Brighton Guardian (11 December 1867) provides a tantalising description of a recently executed large oil painting but unfortunately the present whereabouts are unknown although the painting was exhibited at the Royal Academy Exhibition of 1886.  

‘The sketch is taken from the neighbourhood of Brighton, the land belonging to Baron Goldsmid, and now farmed by Mr Watson. The foreground represents a half-ploughed field, while in the distance may be seen the rising Downs. To the left is a small copse, and to the right a short stunted hedge. A team of three horses attached to a plough forms the chief subject of the painting. The scene is taken at noon; the animals have been stopped for a time in their labours, and are intent on the contents of their nosebags, whilst the men are resting under the hedge enjoying their midday meal. A peasant girl is seen approaching, bearing the essential accompaniment of the repast in the shape of – we suppose – good English beer. Thus the painting is appropriately entitled Twelve o’clock.’ (It is worth noting that this rural scene was located in Hove, actually).

copyright © Royal Pavilion & Museums, Brighton & Hove
This is an example of J.C. Dollman’s youthful artistic
 skills drawn when he was 17 years old.
The Brighton Guardian also noted that ‘Mr Dollman’s forte seems to be for animal drawing. The strong-looking limbs, the well-rounded forms, and the symmetry of the horses show them to be types of a thoroughly serviceable animal.’

Farmer Watson was so pleased with Dollman’s painting that he commissioned him to paint some other animals that were about to be shown at Steyning market.

In fact Dollman gained a fine reputation as an animal painter and he was seen as a natural successor to Edwin Landseer. Dollman studied art at both South Kensington and the Royal Academy Schools; from 1870 to 1912 he exhibited his work at the Royal Academy almost continuously. Many of his sporting and highwayman pictures were printed as popular photogravure reproductions and they found a ready market.

It is interesting to note that reference books on British artists refer to Dollman as a ‘black and white artist,’ which no doubt refers to his work as a leading draughtsman at the Graphic. It was a time when etchings were used extensively to illustrate journals and newspapers. But from the description quoted about Twelve o’clock Dollman must have been competent already in the use of colour and he worked in both oils and water-colour. A fascinating aside is a possible link between Van Gogh and Dollman. Van Gogh lived in England in his youth for a while and he was engaged in print-making. Some experts deduce that Van Gogh’s brush strokes echo the moves made in print-making.

When he was a young man Dollman visited the United States of America and he lived for some time on the Tuscarora Reservation situated in Niagara County, New York. He returned home with a quantity of studies of Native Americans whose ancestors had been living on the Reservation since 1803; they are recognised as the 6th Nation of the Iroquois Confederacy. In 1877 Dollman exhibited at the Royal Academy his painting of the burial of an Indian chief entitled Burial of Minnisink. .

Dollman also had wide interests besides his artistic career. He was an enthusiastic angler and ornithologist and he built up a fine collection of British lepidoptera, which he presented to the British Museum. He was a keen tennis player and golfer and became fascinated with photography, being elected an honorary member of the Royal Photographic Society.

As can be seen in this illustration J.C. Dollman 
was an ornithologist as well as a painter.

The Natural History Museum holds three items from John Charles Dollman

Three notebooks relating to his egg collection
Painting of an oxen team at Offham
Large oil painting of a pair of tigers

Family Life

In 1880 Dollman married Mary Jane (Dolly) Fletcher of Hereford and they had four children.

Dollman must have had fond memories of his childhood home at Hove because he called the house at Newton Grove, Bedford Park, London, where he lived for 51 years, Hove House while his holiday home at Ditchling, Sussex was renamed Hove Cottage. The latter was located in Underhill Lane and he owned the property from 1902 to 1917. The cottage was originally called Beanacre and it reverted to that name after his tenure. It must have provided a marked contrast to his civilised life in London because there was no piped water, no sewerage system and no electricity. But he did add a studio, which was quite essential for his extensive output.

In 1916 while Dollman and his family were at Hove Cottage he had a visit from his Australian cousin Lieutenant Colonel Walter Dollman who was on leave from France. The artist described himself in a letter to his cousin so that he might recognise him at the railway station. He said he was about 5 feet 6 inches in height with white hair and moustache and wearing gold-rimed glasses. The military gentleman thought the artist’s height was ‘the average height of the Dollman folk of my generation’. In a letter (dated 16 May 1916) to his wife Rose, Walter Dollman wrote the following account.

“As we steamed slowly to the platform (at Hassocks) I was very anxious to see what J.C. Dollman looked like. Our eyes met as the train slowly stopped and we both mutually recognised each other. He had described himself accurately and he said he saw the ‘Dollman’ in my appearance. He grabbed my hand and was glad to welcome me. We got into a trap and started off along an ideal country road where in places the hedges on either side brushed the wheels of the vehicle and chatted of ordinary things until at length we sighted the house about four miles from the railway station. As we drove up his wife and two daughters were waiting to greet us and we went straight to his studio, where he said pointing to his wife ‘Her name is Mary, mine is Charlie, the children call us by these names. This is the eldest girl usually called Mooney, and this is Ruth. My boys are two, Guy is a Captain doing instructional work, and the other Hereward is in Rhodesia, now let us have some lunch’”

Artist and Soldier; John Charles Dollman, artist, and his cousin 
from Adelaide Lieutenant Colonel Walter Dollman.
Later on in the same letter Walter wrote that Charlie thought Walter’s Dad was the spitting image of his brother who died in India. They went for a walk in the afternoon and the evening was spent pleasantly listening to gramophone records, drinking whisky, smoking cigars and talking. One thing they did not talk about was politics because Walter soon discovered that Charlie was ‘a TORY of the very hottest type’ and so he gave politics a wide berth. Walter also wrote

‘On the Monday Charlie and I went for a very long walk. He is the most interesting companion, 65 years old, but could easily beat me at walking, active as a kitten, an incessant smoker, and full of keenest humour… He likes a joke and is a devotee of Charles Dickens and Kipling. I made him talk about his pictures and was vastly entertained. I helped the girls roll the tennis court in the afternoon and we passed the evening as before. During the day we had quite half an hour of a nightingale’s song in the nearby trees. I can quite understand the English appreciation of this songster.’

Not long afterwards Walter had to return via Boulogne to the ‘hated trenches’.

Mary Dollman died in 1929 and her husband died on 11 December 1934.

This obituary was printed in the Daily Telegraph (12 December 1934)

‘Mr. John Charles Dollman, R.W.S. the well-known artist, died yesterday in Acton Hospital at the age of 83. He had been taken ill only five days ago, while he was painting.

The son of Mr J.C. Dollman, a Brighton bookseller, he received his training at the Brighton School of Art and the Royal Academy schools. He was elected a member of the Royal Society of Painters in Water Colour 50 years ago, and first exhibited at the Royal Academy as long ago as 1872.

Mr R.R. Tatlock writes: Though he was born as long ago as 1851, Mr Dollman is still vividly remembered by all who have not forgotten the anecdotal school of painting, of which he was a chief ornament. Among his principal works were “Famine” “The Thirty Pieces of Silver” “Am I my Brother’s Keeper?” and the sensationally successful “A Very Gallant Gentleman” and “Tipperary”.’

List of John Charles Dollman’s Paintings exhibited at the Royal Academy of Art 1872-1904

1872 What are the wild waves saying?
1873 Caught napping.
1873 Just saved. 
1875 His only friend. (Calderdale Metropolitan Council)
1876 The Princess.
1876 Killing time.
1877 The burial of Minnisink.  (Art Gallery of South Australia)
1877 ‘Uneasy lies the head that wears a crown.’
1878 ‘The course of true love never did run smooth.’  
1879 Table d’Hote at a Dogs’ Home.  (Walker Art Gallery, Liverpool)
1880 Friends in adversity, Christmas at the Dreadnought Hospital, Greenwich.   (Nottingham Museum & Art Gallery)
1884 Not worth powder and shot.
1885 A juvenile party.
1885 ‘Should old acquaintance be forgot.’
1886 - Les Misérables. A portrait of five dejected cab horses in snowy weather. (Museum of London)
1886 Warranted quiet to ride or drive.
1886 Twelve o’clock.
1887 Your humble servant.
1889 Worse things happen at sea. (Art Gallery of South Australia)

copyright © Art Gallery of South Australia)
Worse things happen at sea by J.C. Dollman

1890 Polo.
1891 My turn now.
1891 The rising generation. (Atkinson Art Gallery Collection)
1896 During the time of the sermonses. The subject relates to Scotland in the 1590s when John Henrie and Pat Rogie were prosecuted for ‘playing of the gowff (golf) on the links every Sabbath the time of the Sermonses’. (Harris Museum & Art Gallery, Preston)
1896 ‘As the twig is bent the tree’s inclined.’
1897 The Temptation of St Anthony. The saint kneels in front of a crucifix apparently oblivious to the nude woman in the foreground.
1898 The awakening of Titania.
1899 The Stymies. North Berwick in the Forties.  
1899 Robinson Crusoe. The hero wears hairy garments and looks out to sea. (National Gallery of Victoria, Australia)
1900 The top of the hill. Two plough horses, one lying dead on the ground; the other stands by, disconsolate.

Top of the hill by J.C. Dollman.

1900 A question of compensation.
1902 An anxious moment.
1902 Kismet.
1903 Mowgli made Leader of the Bandar-Log.  (Shipley Art Gallery)

copyright © Shipley Art Gallery
Mowgli made leader of the Bandar-log by J.C. Dollman.

1904 Famine.  (Salford Museum & Art Gallery)

List of J.C. Dollman’s Paintings exhibited at the Royal Watercolour Society 1908-1920

1910 A Sussex Farm
1910 The road across the common
1910 A Sussex horse fair
1910 Wolstonbury Hill, Sussex
1910 Ditchling Beacon – harvesting
1910 The grass road over the hill, Pyecombe
1911 A hot day in Sussex
1911 Going to the farm, near Lewes
1911 The old coach road across Ditchling Common
1911 Wolstonbury Hill and Clayton Mills, Sussex
1911 Plumpton Mill, Sussex
1911 The Sussex Weald
1911 Coronation Bonfire on Ditchling Common 22 June 1911
1912 The farm, Westmeston Place
1912 Sussex
1912 Underhill Lane, Ditchling
1912 Wolstonbury Hill from the Downs, Sussex
1912 Ash trees of the South Downs
1912 Autumn in the lane (Sussex?)
1913 Underhill Lane, Ditchling
1913 Morning Gleams, South Downs, Sussex
1913 Sussex Summer
1913 Hazy Morning, South Downs
1913 Sussex Spring
1914 A Sussex millstream, near Pulborough
1914 Malling Hill, Lewes
1914 A breeze (Sussex?)
1914 At the foot of Ditchling Beacon
1915 A farm pond, Sussex
1915 Sussex Summer
1915 A Sussex team
1916 Plumpton Church, Sussex
1916 A Downland cornfield, Sussex
1917 Evening, South Downs
1917 Ditchling Beacon, Sussex
1917 Sussex, August
1917 A Sussex morning
1917 Hay time, at the foot of the Sussex Downs
1918 The Valley of Withdean from Ditchling
1918 The chalkpit, Sussex
1918 Stanmer Park and the old London Road from Brighton golf links
1918 A Sussex Downs roadway
1919 Standean Valley from Ditchling Beacon
1919 January morning from West Pier, Brighton
1919 Middleton Hill from Ditchling Beacon
1919 At Southease, Sussex
1920 Sussex
1920 In the valley of the Ouse, Sussex
1920 View from Ditchling Beacon
1920 Mount Caburn from Southease, Sussex
1920 Wiggenholt Common, Pulborough, Sussex
1920 At Poynings, South Downs
1920 The Standean Valley from Ditchling Beacon
1920 September morning, Southwick Hill, Sussex
1920 Underhill Lane, Westmeston, Sussex – early summer
1920 Thundersbarrow Hill, Sussex

More exhibited works by J.C. Dollman

1884 - Immigrants’ Ship. (Art Gallery of South Australia)
1888 - A London Cab Stand 
1905 – Harvest
1905 – Edythe
1907 - Bellona
1908 - Night  – a study of elephants at dusk. (Leicester Galleries, London)
1908 - The Ride of the Valkyries. (Art Gallery of Western Australia, Perth)
1909 - Chariot of the Sun. (Leicester Galleries, London)
1909 – ‘Am I my Brother’s Keeper?’
1910 – ‘And some fell by the wayside.’ (Art Gallery of South Australia)
1911 – The Hunter
1912 - The Unknown. (Laing Art Gallery)
1913 – The mischief god
1914 - A Very Gallant Gentleman  – a tribute to the heroic sacrifice of Captain Oates. (Scott Polar Research Institute, Cambridge)

copyright © Scott Polar Research Institute, Cambridge
A very gallant gentleman by J.C. Dollman.

1915 – Tipperary. a group of soldiers, singing as they tramp through the mud with horse and wagons bringing up the rear

Tipperary by J.C. Dollman.

1916 – The Creditors. Four wounded soldiers seated on a bench with a nurse in attendance
1917 – Anno Domini 1917
Harvest – two horses pulling a cart full of wounded soldiers
1918 – The altar
1919 – ‘For he believed in his God’ – Dan.vi.
1920 – The silence
1921 – Up a tree
1922 – The enchantress
1923 – The spell
1926 – Circe
1927 – The eldest god
1928 – The snow leopard
1930 - Enchantment
1934 - Disturbed

Other works by J.C. Dollman

Dogs’ Refuge. (Royal Pavilion & Museums, Brighton & Hove)

copyright © Royal Pavilion & Museums, Brighton & Hove
Dogs’ Refuge by J.C. Dollman.

Thirty Pieces of Silver. (Royal Pavilion & Museums, Brighton & Hove)

copyright © Royal Pavilion & Museums, Brighton & Hove
Thirty Pieces of Silver by J.C. Dollman.

Ditchling Beacon. (Lewes Town Council)
Sussex. (Art Gallery of South Australia)
Marquis, a Gordon setter. (Rochdale Arts & Heritage Service)
The Ravager.  (Trustees of the Royal Watercolour Society)
Tigers. (Natural History Museum Oil Paintings Collection)
Village Artist. (Laing Art Gallery)

Some Sale Prices

A disputed point. Sold for £25 1871/2
A job lot. Sold for £10 1872
Chicken-hazard. Sold for 6 guineas 1872/3
The invader. Sold for 12 guineas 1872/3
Beagles – full cry. Sold for £36-15s 1873
Pluck. Sold for 15 guineas 1873
Entirely self-taught. Sold for 8 guineas 1873
A forward puppy. Sold for 18 guineas 1873
What? Sold for 15 guineas 1874
‘There was a stillness, as of night,
When storms at distance brood.’ Sold for 15 guineas 1874
Beagles and rabbits. Sold for £18 1874/5
‘A deed without a name.’ Sold for £25 1874/5
‘She had so many children, she didn’t know what to do.’ Sold for £15 1874/5
The shepherd’s friends. Watercolour, sold for £12 1874/5
Spaniel and game. Sold for £40 1875
Hopes and fears. Sold for £50 1975

John Guy Dollman (1880-1942)

He was the elder son of John Charles and Mary Dollman and he was born on 4 September 1880, the same year as his parents’ marriage. He and his brother Hereward were educated at St Paul’s School. It seems they were equally gifted because they both won the Smee prize for natural history and both were repeatedly successful in the John Watson prize competition for art. From a young age the brothers collected specimens of British beetles, moths and butterflies, which were sufficiently comprehensive to warrant being presented to the Natural History Museum at a later date.

In 1905 Guy went up to Cambridge on a scholarship from St Paul’s and an exhibition from St John’s College. He read for the Natural Sciences Tripos but two years later decided to combine his studies with a post in the Zoology Department of the British Museum. Until he graduated he travelled daily between Cambridge and London.

During the Great War he volunteered for military service in 1915 and enlisted in the Inns of Court Officer Training Corps; later on he was commissioned into the 19th London Regiment. He was promoted to Captain and appointed as a Divisional Bombing Officer. Then he went on to command a Bombing School 2nd London Service Brigade. Unfortunately he was involved in a bombing accident, which severely injured him and caused permanent damage to one of his eyes. But after recovery he managed to resume his duties until the end of the war.

In 1916 he married he married Violet, younger daughter of Dr S.F. Holloway. It must be an indication of the closeness that remained between the brothers into adulthood because on the very same day, Hereward married Violet Holloway’s sister.

After the Great War Dollman returned to the British Museum (Natural History) and was placed in charge of arranging the exhibition galleries of mammals. A particular hit was his arrangement of a group of near extinct Cape African elephants (male, female and young) in an alcove of the main hall. Displaying a group in its natural surroundings rather than as an isolated specimen had not been attempted in Britain before although it had been developed in some large American museums with much more space and funding to spare. Dollman himself painted the backdrop of the Knysna Forest while the Cape Forestry Department provided specimens of tree trunks, dried foliage and brushwood. Meanwhile, Mrs Dollman assisted in the modelling and painting of various plants, which was undertaken at Kew Gardens.

The elephants were such a success, from royalty to ordinary folk it is claimed, that a display of gorillas was contemplated. Although preparations went on for some time, the years of Depression loomed and funding dried up. Instead, Dollman turned his attention to the newly completed Whale Hall. There was no money to work on the huge skeletons and necessary casts and Dollman suggested a temporary exhibition of Game Animals of the Empire. Suitable specimens were extricated from glass cases in the mammal galleries and grouped together on the floor of the hall on a carpet of peat litter. The popularity of this exhibition made the museum authorities realise that the traditional way of displaying specimens according to zoological classification might need revision.

After his father died in 1936, Captain Dollman presented three of his father’s paintings to the Art Gallery of South Australia. They were Sussex (watercolour) The Burial of Minnisink (oil on canvas) plus ‘And some fell by the wayside’ (oil on canvas); he also presented Robinson Crusoe (oil on canvas) to the National Gallery of Victoria, Australia in the same year.

On 26 February 1942 Guy Dollman wrote to his cousin Walter Dollman as follows:

‘We jog along in our country surroundings – the Museum has been bombed three times and part of the Herbarium destroyed by fire. Thus the patient toil of years on the part of hundreds of collectors and botanists has all gone up in smoke.

The Museum looks much the same from the outside – but inside there are great changes since all the private collections and libraries have been sent out of London; it will be a life-time’s job to get them back again!

Shortly after we were bombed out of London, I broke my right collar bone – it has not mended well, and makes writing rather laborious.’

The following obituary was published in The Sphere (4 April 1942)

‘Captain Guy Dollman, who died on 21 March 1942, was a man of rare gifts and generosity of heart. He had a considerable name in the zoological and artistic worlds, and in both will leave a gap, which will be hard to fill. As a zoologist he had worked at the British Museum (Mammal Department) since 1907. His work included many publications, principally on African and Indian Big Game. His lectures were deservedly popular, and he had the facility of imparting comprehensively to the layman his great knowledge on technical matters. As a painter he has frequently exhibited at the Royal Academy, the Royal Institute of Oil Painters and elsewhere. His seascapes in particular show a delicate appreciation and interpretation of the subject’s many moods. But apart from his talents and brilliance of mind, he was a man who would go to endless trouble to help younger people, or others less gifted than himself, whether in the scientific or artistic world. His encouragement of the young was an inspiration. His kindness of heart, his unusual wit and great personal charm will live on in the memory of those fortunate enough to have known him.’ 

Books written by Guy Dollman
Guy Dollman’s depiction of 
Psendochirus lewisi.

The Game Animals of Africa
The Game Animals of India

He also wrote several guides for the Museum including Catalogue of the Selous Collection and Guide to the Horse and many articles for the Natural History Magazine, formerly published by the Museum.

The Museum also holds three original water-colour drawings of mammals that were published in Proceedings of the Zoological Society (1933)

Hereward Chune Dollman (1888-1919)

He was the younger son of John Charles and Mary Dollman and the brother of John Guy Dollman. He served for six years as an entomologist with the British South Africa Company’s Sleeping Sickness Survey. Unhappily he died of the fatal disease in 1919 in Africa; his young wife, the sister of his brother’s wife, whom he only married in 1916 also died in Africa of sunstroke a few months after the wedding.

The Natural History Museum holds the following works by H.C. Dollman

One volume of water-colour drawings of larvae of north-west Rhodesian lepidoptera with manuscript notes and data
One volume of data relating to the Dollman insect collection 1916-1918
Four volumes containing 540 drawings of caterpillars of British butterflies and moths
Twelve note-books on British beetles
One botanical note-book

Ruth Dollman

Both of Dollman’s daughters became artists; Mary painted flowers while Ruth was a landscape painter. As a child living with her parents at Ditchling, Ruth planted a chestnut tree in the garden.

Ruth Dollman married Maurice Webb, a landscape artist. She illustrated Nature near London (1908) by Richard Jefferies who lived in Hove for a short while; she produced twelve watercolours for the book. She also illustrated The Open Air (1908) by the same author.

An art critic once offered a withering criticism of Ruth Dollman’s work labelling it ‘weak and pretty’. But others begged to differ and she was popular with the public. There was also support for her work from esteemed quarters because she exhibited no less than 69 works at the Fine Art Society, fourteen at the Royal Institute and six at the Watercolour Society.  

  copyright © F. Broom
This lovely painting by Ruth Dollman is supposedly of the Sussex Downs near Ditchling.

After her husband died, Ruth lived with a housekeeper at a property called Field Way, Ditchling until 1965. She died at the ripe old age of 90 in Cuckfield Hospital.

After Ruth died the housekeeper allowed two of Ruth’s friends to select as mementoes three of her painting remaining in the house. One was a beautiful landscape of the Downs near Ditchling.

The following is a list of some of Ruth Dollman’s Sussex paintings.

1905 – Dawn
1911 – Ditchling Beacon
1911 – On the Downs near Lewes
1911 – Newtimber Hill from Pyecombe
1912 – The back garden
1914 – September on the South Downs
1915 – Wolstonbury Hill from Ditchling Beacon
1916 – The close of the day
1917 – Sussex
1918 – Evening at the Chalk Pit, Ditchling Beacon
1919 – A Downland rick-yard near Lewes


Arthur Parmeter Dollman was a first cousin once removed of J.C. Dollman and he also had a local background. In 1901 A.P. Dollman, aged 51 and his wife Amelia and children were living in what was in those days known as West Brighton. Their son Francis Thomas Dollman, aged 23, was living with them. By 1902 this young man was dead as the result of conflict in South Africa. His body occupies a war grave in Jagersfontein Municipal Cemetery.


Art Gallery of South Australia
Brighton Guardian (11 December 1867)
Census Returns
Daily Telegraph (12 December 1934)
Dictionary of British Artists (1880-1940
Encyclopaedia of Hove and Portslade
Internet searches
Letters from Colonel W. Dollman describing his leave in England from France 1916
Natural History Museum
Porter, Henry A History of Hove (1897)
Proceedings of the Linnean Society (1942) page 273-275 obituary of Guy Dollman by W.T. Calman
The New English Art Club 1888-1917
The Royal Society of British Artists 1824-1893
The Sphere (4 April 1942) obituary of Guy Dollman

Thanks are also due to Guy Dollman of Australia
Ditchling Museum, Sussex
Francis Broom of Wales
for additional information

Copyright © J.Middleton 2016
page layout by D.Sharp