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

Montague Dawson

Reef down - 6 metre yachts off the Isle of Wight

Oil on canvas: 24(h) x 36(w) in / 61(h) x 91.4(w) cm
Signed, inscribed on stretcher on the reverse

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Chiswick 1895 - 1973 Midhurst, Sussex

Ref: BX 205


Reef down - 6 metre yachts off the Isle of Wight


Signed lower left: Montague Dawson;

titled on the stretcher

Oil on canvas: 24 x 36 in / 61 x 91.4 cm

Frame size: 31 ½ x 43 in / 80 x 109.2 cm

Painted circa 1948





Frost & Reed, Ltd., London, inv. no.6730 (acquired directly from the artist, January 1948)

DuMouchelles Art Galleries, Detroit, 17th January 1994, lot 2005;

Richard Green, London, 1994;

Marcel Lindenbaum, New York


‘His brushwork, though free, is never careless and his colours are graded with discipline and restraint. This all contributes to the feeling of spaciousness and harmony which is the mark of a Montague Dawson seascape … He remains a force in English marine painting, as fresh and vigorous as his own crisp skies and driving seas.’[1]


Reef down - 6 metre yachts off the Isle of Wight is an exemplary expression of Montague Dawson’s interest in all kinds of marine racing. Dawson himself was a keen amateur yachtsman and the present work captures the grace and excitement of élite yacht racing. Reef down - 6 metre yachts off the Isle of Wight documents a collection of classic, six-metre racing yachts skimming the waters of The Solent. One yacht moves out from the pack, elegantly slicing blade-like through the waves and sprays of foam, thrusting forward beneath a sky full of scudding clouds. The low viewpoint and rich impasto vividly convey the energy of the sea.


In order to sail in notoriously windy channels of open water, vessels such as the six-metre yacht, moving across lively tides as depicted in the present work, are dependent upon a reefable mainsail and headsails. International six-metre yachts, within the context of classic sailing boats, are incredibly popular designs and a class of racing yacht that originates from the Olympics of the early twentieth century. Ron Ranson notes that yacht paintings by Dawson ‘have now become very rare.’[2]




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.



[1] LGG Ramsey, Montague Dawson R.S.M.A., F.R.S.A., Leigh-on-Sea 1967, p.16.

[2] R Ranson, The Maritime Paintings of Montague Dawson, Newton Abbot, Devon 1993, p.77.

Other Works By
Montague Dawson:

Montague Dawson - The Rivals: Taeping and Ariel
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