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The artist at work .
Note lot 532 in this catalogue hanging in the centre of the left hand wall of the studio, with the model itself nearest the viewer.
PROPERTY FROM THE ESTATE OF THE LATE MISS NYRIA M. DAWSON, SOLD BY ORDER OF THE EXECUTORS, TO BENEFIT THE ROYAL NATIONAL LIFEBOAT INSTITUTION, THE ROYAL SOCIETY FOR THE PREVENTION OF CRUELTY TO ANIMALS AND THE TALL SHIPS' YOUTH TRUST
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 favoured medium became oil and his reputation began to grow from the moment Frost & Reed, his sole agents, started marketing his pictures. 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.
Montague Dawson met his wife Doris in the early 1920s, married her in 1925 and set up home in St. Charles's Square, North Kensington, London. Their first and only child, a daughter, was born in 1928 and they named her Nyria, after the famous J-class yacht of that era. As a result of Montague's increasing affluence, the family moved to Milford-on-Sea in 1934, to an old house called Dawes Stream situated on the edge of the New Forest about a quarter of a mile inland. The call of the sea proved irresistible to Dawson however and, in 1937, the family moved again, this time to a brand new house right on the coast nearby. This was to remain the artist's home for the rest of his life and he was extremely happy there. In 1944, when Nyria Dawson was sixteen, her mother's health began to fail and she was taken out of school, not only to help care for her mother but also to take on the running of the house. In the event, Doris Dawson lived for many more years and only predeceased her husband by a very short interval. Sacrificing the chance of marriage or a career of her own, Nyria spent much of her adult life caring for her parents and thus felt their loss particularly keenly. With her father's death in 1973, the family home was sold to help pay the considerable death duties and Nyria was forced to move, first to Hordle, just outside New Milton, but then back to Milford-on-Sea where she purchased 'High View', her home for most of her remaining years. Before her death in April 2003, she had directed that her estate be used for charitable purposes and hence this auction of the Dawson "family" paintings which is to benefit the following charities: R.N.L.I., R.S.P.C.A. and the Tall Ships Youth Trust.
Throughout this collection, reference has been made to two invaluable books concerning the life and works of the artist, namely:
L.G.G. Ramsey, Montague Dawson, R.S.M.A., F.R.S.A., Leigh-on-Sea, 1967.
Ron Ranson, The Maritime Paintings of Montague Dawson, Newton Abbot, 1993.