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Montague Dawson - The 'True Briton'

Montague Dawson

The 'True Briton'

Oil on canvas: 24(h) x 36(w) in / 61(h) x 91.4(w) cm

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Chiswick 1895 - 1973 Midhurst, Sussex

Ref: BZ 213


The True Briton


Signed lower left: Montague Dawson

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

Frame size: 32 x 44 in / 81.3 x 111.8 cm


Painted circa 1960






Frost & Reed, Ltd., London, inv. no.29072

Private collection, UK


‘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]


Montague Dawson evokes the drama of the age of sail, with the clipper ship True Briton racing from Australia to London through choppy seas with all sail set. The True Briton was a wool clipper, smaller and faster than the Australian emigrant ships. Huge wool ranches had developed in Australia when the promise of the Gold Rush faded, bringing lasting prosperity to the country. As with the tea cargoes brought from China to London, races between the fastest wool ships caught the imagination of the age. The London wool sales took place in January, February and March; the fastest ships were loaded last, tightly packed with their light and combustible cargo[2]. The heyday of the True Briton was the 1870s: in 1877 she left Melbourne on 21st December 1877, arriving in London 104 days later, on 4th April 1878[3].





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] See Basil Lubbock, The Colonial Clippers, Glasgow 1921, pp.122-124.

[3] Lubbock, op. cit., p.421.

Other Works By
Montague Dawson:

Montague Dawson - The Rivals: Taeping and Ariel Montague Dawson - Reef down - 6 metre yachts off the Isle of Wight
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