London, South Kensington
17 November 2004
Montague Dawson, F.R.S.A., R.S.M.A. (1895-1973)
The rising wind: On deck aboard the Ethiopian [?]
signed 'Montague. Dawson' (lower left)
oil on canvas
30 x 20 in. (76.2 x 50.8 cm.)
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L.G.G. Ramsey, Montague Dawson R.S.M.A., F.R.S.A., Leigh-on-Sea, p. 28, no. 73 & pl. 15.
Ron Ranson, The Maritime Paintings of Montague Dawson, Newton Abbot, 1993, p. 45.
This dramatic depiction of the uncompromising harshness of life at sea during the age of sail is one of a small though highly distinctive group of deck scenes executed by Montague Dawson at various times in his career. This particular view of men emerging into the lashing wind from the relative comfort of their mess below decks, probably to shorten sail in view of the ominous weather conditions, has a number of similarities to another Dawson deck scene entitled 'Wind in the Rigging - the Ethiopian'. It is not possible to prove conclusively that the identity of the vessel in this work offered here is that same Ethiopian although it seems highly probable. Whether the same or not however, the painting remains one of that rare handful of atmospheric deck scenes which form a tiny though fascinating part of Dawson's marine creations.
Ethiopian was built for George Thompson's 'White Star Line' of Australian clippers by Walter Hood at Aberdeen in 1864. Registered at 839 tons gross (and net), she measured 195½ feet in length with a 34 foot beam and proved unexpectedly fast when she ran out to Melbourne in only 68 days on her maiden voyage. Normally employed to carry coal from Australia to China before loading tea for the journey home, it was said that she was surprisingly beautiful for a collier although it has to be said that her regular run from Melbourne to Shanghai was rather more exotic than the more mundane routes in and around the British Isles. After a successful twenty-two year career under White Star colours, including a miraculous escape from being sunk when completely dismasted in a tremendous gale off Sydney in 1868, she was sold to Norwegian owners in 1886 who operated her until 1894 when she was abandoned in a sinking condition in the North Atlantic.
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