Dyce specialised chiefly in religious and medieval subjects. His many interests included medicine, geology and art education. Born in Aberdeen, he trained briefly in London before travelling to Italy. The Nazarenes, a group of German painters working in Rome who were inspired by the character of early Italian painting, influenced Dyce greatly. He developed considerable expertise in fresco painting and was consulted over the decoration of the new Houses of Parliament at Westminster. In London he was the first Superintendent of the Government School of Design, following a successful period in Edinburgh (1832-1837) as a portrait painter and teacher at the Trustees' Academy.