This is one of Dawson's most splendid works, although comparatively early, and shows Dawson responding to Turner's legacy. Dawson uses paint to evoke the way physical forms are rendered salient or diminished by light. He surrounds the sun with white impasto to impart the tight intensity of this source. The castle is thinly painted, obscured by warm light, whereas the tree foliage is rendered intricately, as shadow allows the eye to discern detail.
Dawson's painstaking technique enabled him to create these organic forms. He added body to his work in stages; first sketching basic components on a monochrome ground, enabling him to "..study light and shade independent of colour". He then applied a series of semi-transparent colour glazes, working into them with a filament brush or a palette knife, before applying another glaze over this accumulative detail to mimic the way air itself occupies the spaces within natural structures. Dawson had learnt these techniques from J.B. Pyne.
Windsor Castle was a popular subject with contemporary artists, and Dawson also incorporates Eton College to the extreme left. Interestingly, George Cole the Elder painted a similar view, entitled A View of Windsor Castle from the River Thames, which was sold at Christie's, London, 19 May 1978, lot 172. Dawson and Cole would have been familiar with each other's work, as they exhibited at the same major galleries. Although Cole introduces the pageantry of Thames barges in full sail, his picture is more pedantic. Dawson takes liberties with his composition (the inclusion of Eton College and the looming dimensions of the elms) but with such a combination of assurance and poetic instinct, that the result is satisfying.
The Art Journal praised Dawson's British Institution exhibit in 1855: "The sun over Windsor, is feebly penetrating the morning mist, and distributing its yet faint light over every portion of the landscape, but with a delicacy and propriety of feeling which only nature herself can dictate. On the left rises a screen of tall elms, which are drawn and painted with a fullness and richness rarely seen. The picture shows no vulgar striving after force, that is, the result of a close observance of nature."