Audio: Montague Dawson, Henry Morgan's Ship off Gorgona in the Pacific
Montague Dawson, F.R.S.A., R.S.M.A. (British, 1895-1973)
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Montague Dawson, F.R.S.A., R.S.M.A. (British, 1895-1973)

Henry Morgan's Ship off Gorgona in the Pacific

Montague Dawson, F.R.S.A., R.S.M.A. (British, 1895-1973)
Henry Morgan's Ship off Gorgona in the Pacific
signed 'Montague Dawson' (lower left)
oil on canvas
40 x 50 in. (101.6 x 127 cm.)
with Frost & Reed, Ltd., London.
Acquired from the above by the present owner.

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Lot Essay

Montague Dawson was born in Chiswick in 1985, the son of an engineer-inventor who also happened to be an enthusiastic and expert Thames yatchsman. Dawson's grandfather Henry had been a successful landscape painter and having skipped a generation, the grandfather's artistic abilities were inherited by the grandson in full measure. Fascinated by ships and the sea from an early age, young Montague's interest was deepened when the family moved to a house bordering the Southampton Water. By the age of eight, Dawson was already painting seriously and by fifteen he had gained employment in a commercial art studio in Bedford Row, London, where he illustrated posters. At the beginning of the Great War, Dawson became a naval officer and spent several years serving in armed trawlers and minesweeper, all the time continuing to draw when his duties allowed. During his shore leave, Dawson would visit Charles Napier Henry, and established marine painter living in Falmouth who was to have a profound influence upon the young artist. It is most likely due to the influence of Henry that Dawson became a professional artist at the end of the war.

This magnificent work is one of Dawson's much sought-after Pacific Island paintings and he regarded it to be one of his best. Despite the artist's preference for the graceful commercial sailing ships of the 19th century, Dawson was also enamored of scenes of 17th century pirates and buccaneers that had been popularized by cinematographers during his lifetime.

The pirates' clandestine world is depicted against the harsh glare of the mid-day sun as they deposit their booty on the shore of the island of Gorgona. The island of Gorgona is located in the Pacific Ocean off the southeast coast of Colombia. Pictured here is the most infamous privateer Sir Henry Morgan (1635-1688), was born to a prosperous Welsh farming family. In his lifetime, Morgan amassed huge fleets which made numerous raids all along the Spanish mainland including Portobello, Maracaibo and a spectacular attack on Panama City in 1671 that earned him a knighthood from King Charles II of England. Morgan settled in Port Royal, Jamaica as its deputy governor and pursued his life as a rich sugar plantation owner.

Dawson's exemplary attention to detail is exemplified in this painting and his brushwork, though free, is never careless. His colors are graded with restraint, lending a spaciousness and harmony to the image which is the mark of his seascapes. The attention to topographical detail was almost certainly worked up from sketches undertaken on one of his many voyages to the Pacific and Caribbean.

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