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Montague Dawson - Fresh Winds, High Seas

Montague Dawson

Fresh Winds, High Seas

Oil on canvas: 40(h) x 50(w) in / 101.6(h) x 127(w) cm

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Chiswick 1895 - 1973 Midhurst, Sussex


Fresh winds, high seas


Signed lower left: Montague Dawson

Oil on canvas: 40 x 50 in / 101.6 x 127 cm

Frame size: 47 x 57 in / 119.4 x 144.8 cm


Painted circa 1960



Frost and Reed Ltd., London, inv. no.27786;

from whom acquired in October 1960 by a private collector, USA

Edith J and Charles Claude Johnson-Spink, Saint Louis, MO;

by whom bequeathed to the Saint Louis Museum of Art;

deaccessioned by the museum in 2019



Montague Dawson depicts a clipper with all sail set, racing across the ocean with a cargo of tea or spices. The towering sail plan is emphasised by the low viewpoint, almost level with the choppy sea whipped into peaks of foam. Behind the vessel, clouds scud in a pale blue sky.


Dawson was fascinated by the elegant clippers, developed from the 1850s for strength and speed by famous shipbuilders such as Donald Mackay of Boston and William Steele of Greenock on the Clyde. Clippers were designed to carry high-value cargoes and sacrificed capacity for swiftness. Each spring the clippers went out to the Chinese ports – Foochow being the busiest – and waited for the tea to be brought down from the interior. The ‘Tea Races’ in which these élite vessels strove to be the first home with the new season’s cargo of tea caught the imagination of the press and of the world. Heavy wagers were laid on who would be home most quickly, and there was a premium paid in London for the freshest cargo. The only surviving clipper of this era, the Cutty Sark, is today berthed at Greenwich. In 1870 she made the voyage from Shanghai to Beachy Head in 109 days.









Chiswick 1895 - 1973 Midhurst, Sussex


Montague Dawson was the son of a keen yachtsman and the grandson of the marine painter Henry Dawson (1811-1878).  Much of his childhood was spent on Southampton Water where he was able to indulge his interest in the study of ships. For a brief period around 1910 Dawson worked for a commercial art studio in London, but with the outbreak of the First World War he joined the Royal Navy.  Whilst serving with the Navy in Falmouth he met Charles Napier Hemy (1841-1917), who considerably influenced his work.  Dawson was present at the final surrender of the German Grand Fleet and many of his illustrations depicting the event were published in the Sphere.


After the War, Dawson established himself as a professional marine artist, concentrating on historical subjects and portraits of deep-water sailing ships often in stiff breeze or on high seas.  During the Second World War, he was employed as a war artist and again worked for the Sphere. Dawson exhibited regularly at the Royal Society of Marine Artists, of which he became a member, from 1946 to 1964, and occasionally at the Royal Academy between 1917 and 1936.  By the 1930s he was considered one of the greatest living marine artists, whose patrons included two American Presidents, Dwight D Eisenhower and Lyndon B Johnson, as well as the British Royal Family.


The work of Montague Dawson is represented in the National Maritime Museum, Greenwich and the Royal Naval Museum, Portsmouth.


Other Works By
Montague Dawson:

Montague Dawson - Reef down - 6 metre yachts off the Isle of Wight