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MONTAGUE DAWSON, R.S.M.A., F.R.S.A. (CHISWICK 1895-1973 MIDHURST)
Montague Dawson, R.S.M.A., F.R.S.A., was born in Chiswick in 1895, the son of an engineer-inventor who also happened to be an enthusiastic and expert Thames yachtsman. Dawson's grandfather, Henry, had been a successful landscape painter and, having 'skipped a generation', as these things often do, the old man's artistic abilities were inherited by his grandson in full measure. Fascinated by ships and the sea from an early age, young Montague's interest was further stimulated when the family moved to a house bordering onto Southampton Water which proved the perfect location to nurture his latent talent. Already painting seriously by the time he was eight years old, when he was fifteen he commenced employment in a commercial art studio in Bedford Row, London, at which point he learned the craft of illustration from his work on posters. When the Great War began in 1914, Dawson became - inevitably - a naval officer and spent several years serving in armed trawlers and minesweepers yet all the time continuing to draw when his duties allowed. Quite how remains obscure, but he soon became an illustrator and contributor to the magazine The Sphere and, later, to the Tatler as well as The Illustrated London News. During periods of wartime shore-leave, Dawson liked to visit Charles Napier Hemy, an established marine painter of stature then living at Falmouth. Hemy was to have a profound influence on Dawson's career and it was probably due to him that Dawson became a professional artist once the War ended.
Dawson's early works were mostly in watercolour but once he had allied himself to the London dealers Frost & Reed, in the mid-1920s, his favourite medium became oil and his reputation began to grow. By the 1930s, Dawson had established himself as one of the leading maritime artists of the day and his paintings were providing him with a sizeable income. The outbreak of the Second World War brought new opportunities for work even though his ineligibility for service in the Royal Navy due to his age was a great disappointment to him. Nevertheless, his prolific output for The Sphere once again placed his name before a wider public and he was probably the most well-known living marine artist by 1945. The post-War years brought even greater successes and in the 1960s, when his career was at its peak, the widespread reproduction of his pictures in many different forms was so extensive that he had become a veritable household name, a rare accolade for an artist in British society, by the time he died in 1973.