Shannon's Fine Art Auctioneers

British (1890-1973)
Ship at Sail
oil on canvas on board, signed lower left "Montague Dawson"
20 x 29 3/4 inches

Provenance: Marshall Fields and Company Pictures Gallery, Chicago, Illinois; Estate of Peter Pauls Stewart, Dallas, Texas; Private Collection, Texas.

Other Notes:
Montague Dawson, grandson of painter Henry Dawson (1811–1878), was both a British naval seaman and an exceptional painter, internationally recognized as the leading marine artist of the twentieth century. He spent much of his childhood with his father, an avid yachtsman, on the waters of Southampton where he learned about sailing and ships.

Dawson studied under the renowned artist Charles Napier Hemy (1841–1917) at the Royal Academy. He met Hemy in Falmouth during the first World War when he was a member of the Royal Navy. It was during this time that he became skilled in painting naval ships. By the end of the war, Dawson was a Lieutenant in the 'Dazzle Painting' section at Leith. After the war, Dawson exhibited frequently at the Royal Academy and began his exclusive relationship with Frost & Reed Gallery in London. He was also appointed as an official war artist during World War II.

In the years following World War I, Dawson established himself as a professional marine artist. He concentrated on historical subjects and on painting sailing ships, masterfully capturing the movement of the ocean waves and wind in the sails. His most iconic work explored the world of 18th and 19th century clippers and warships, paying homage to maritime history's 'Age of Sail.' Lot 31 Ship at Sail is a typical example of this part of Dawson's oeuvre – a 19th century clipper, built to move imports like gold from California and tea from China in the quickest times possible. Dawson's skill with painting the effects of both light and wind on the ship, its sails, and the surrounding sky and ocean bring the moment to life, a portrait that captures an era.

For several centuries, the ambitions of European and American business, travel, world-wide trade, and exploration depended specifically on their commercial and military naval capabilities. Fortunes rose and fell with the Dutch, the English, the French, the Spanish, and the Portuguese, all plying the seas in these majestic, deep-water sailing ships. Their romanticization after the rise of steam-powered engines and eventually fossil fuel engines has not abated - the nostalgia and wonder elicited by these beautiful ships traveling vast distances on just the power of the wind and sails paired with the skill of their crew still evokes the magic of journeys and exploration.

"Shortly before his death in 1973," writes Ron Ranson in his 1993 monograph, "a remarkable tribute was made to Montague Dawson. He looked out of his window one day to see two fully rigged training ships, the Royalist and the Sir Winston Churchill, apparently sailing straight towards his house on the shore. At what appeared to be the very last moment, they turned about, and both ships dipped their ensigns in salute to the man who had probably done more than any other to capture the magic and majesty of sail."[1].

Dawson was an associate of the Royal Society of Artists and a member of the Royal Society of Marine Artists. His works can be viewed in museums around the world, and his patrons included the British Royal Family, and American Presidents Dwight D. Eisenhower and Lyndon B. Johnson.

tags: seascape / coastal / marine, sailing, European, oil painting

  • Condition: Canvas: Not Applicable
    Condition: Very Good
    Restoration: Very Minor
    Frame: Period
    Framed dimensions - 25 1/2 x 35 x 2 3/4 inches

    In response to your inquiry, we are pleased to provide you with a general report of the condition of the property described above. Since we are not professional conservators or restorers, we urge you to consult with a restorer or conservator of your choice who will be better able to provide a detailed, professional report. Prospective buyers should inspect each lot to satisfy themselves as to condition and must understand that any statement made by Shannon's is merely a subjective qualified opinion. Frames on all paintings are sold "As Is". Frames may need some conservation.


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29 april 2021 18:00 EDT

Milford, CT, US

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