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Rose Mary
By Rosemary McKittrick
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Montague Dawson; oil on canvas; Racing Home; the China clippers Chrysolite and Stornoway; 28 by 42 inches; sold for $216,000. Photo courtesy of Christie's.
A kinship with the sea shows up in different ways for different people. For some it’s life as a seafarer. Other people become environmentalists.

For 20th century painter Montague Dawson it was life devoted to painting the sea.

Born in 1895, Dawson grew up close to the England’s Southampton water. He came from a long line of sea lovers. His father was an engineer and sea captain. His grandfather Henry Dawson was a marine artist.

Recreating the sea’s magic on canvas was in his blood. Even as a young child he studied the giant vessels coming and going.

Dawson’s fascination with the beauty of the great commercial sailing ships was obvious in his later work. Nothing escaped his attention.

The massive ships. The hard breezes. The restless seas. The fierce skies. He connected the dots and captured the relationship in a way that few others did.

He completed his first watercolor at the age of five. It was the seeding of a talent that would end as Dawson being named one of the greatest marine artists of the 20th century.

He never even went to art school. He did join an art studio in 1910 in Bedford Row, London, which made posters and illustrations.

When World War I started in 1914, the sea lover joined the Royal Navy. He met Officer Charles Napier Hemy, the maritime artist. Hemy tutored Dawson and had a huge impact on his work.

During World Wars I and II Dawson supplied the magazine “Sphere” with monochrome illustrations of historical events like the final surrender of the German Grand Fleet.

It was illustrations like this that brought him the commercial attention he longed for as an artist.

In the 1930s, Dawson lived at Milford-on-Sea, Hampshire, and until the mid-1960s was a regular exhibitor at the Society of Marine Artists.

He was also a fellow of the Royal Society of Arts. He died in Sussex in 1973.

His works were in the collections of the British Royal Family, Pres. Dwight D. Eisenhower and Pres. Lyndon B Johnson, the National Maritime Museum, Greenwich, the Royal Naval Museum, Portsmouth, and The Mariners’ Museum, Salem, MA.

Dawson’s painting of the China Tea trade clippers Chrysolite and Stornoway almost neck-and-neck racing home through the high seas is marine history frozen in time.

Chrysolite launched in March of 1851. She weighed 564 tons and measured 156 feet in length. She could load almost 900 tons of tea. Ultimately, she was caught in a hurricane off Mauritius in 1873 and wrecked.

Designed for speed, Stornoway set sail for the first time in August of 1850. Registered at 527 tons, she measured 158 feet long. She also met her demise in 1873 on a notorious sandbank known as ‘Kentish Knock’ off the mouth of the Thames estuary.

Dawson’s oil on canvas of the two clipper ships went on the block on July 25, 2007, in Christie’s, New York, Marine auction. The 28 inches by 42 inches painting sold for $216,000.

Here are some current values for other Dawson paintings sold in the auction.

Montague Dawson

Tiber Barge in Southampton Waters; watercolor; signed; 10 inches by 12 inches; $2,400.

Toilers of the Deep; watercolor; signed; 7 inches by 10 inches; $4,200.

The Last Fight of the H.M.S; watercolor heightened in white; signed and dated 1908; 6 ¾ inches by 9 ¾ inches; $6,000.

The Liberation of Greece; H.M.S. Ajax; oil on board; signed; 14 inches by 21 inches; $33,600.

Strong Winds; the clipper ship North America; oil on canvas; signed; 20 inches by 30 inches; $57,600.

Light Winds in Sunny Waters; oil on canvas; signed; 24 inches by 36 inches; $84,000.

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