Dorothy Hawksley was born in London on 19 November 1884, the daughter of a maker of surgical instruments with an interest in the work of John Ruskin. Her maternal grandfather had been a painter of marine pictures and therefore she did not face any parental opposition when she showed signs of wanting to become a painter. Her formative schooling in drawing was at a small art school run by the watercolour painter Edward Clifford and Charles Orchardson (son of William Quiller Orchardson). She saw the Burne-Jones memorial exhibition in 1898 and as Clifford had been a friend of Burne-Jones it is likely that they had discussed his work. Her art certainly shows something of an influence from the pale maidens of Burne-Jones. She later attended Clifford and Orchardson's classes at the St. John's Wood Art School after they moved there, before she progressed to the Royal Academy Schools in 1906. She was awarded a silver medal for a drawing from life and the Landseer Scholarship in 1908. She began to exhibit at the Royal Academy in 1909 and continued to show there almost every year until 1964. Although Dorothy Hawksley worked in various media, her most successful works were painted in watercolour and tempera with large areas of flat colour and unshaded tone contained within refined outlines. These were influenced by Japanese prints and by the work of her friend Frederic Cayley Robinson.