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The Flying Fish by Montague Dawson

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The Flying Fish by Montague Dawson

- Item No.

The China clipper, the Flying Fish, is the subject of this outstanding Montague Dawson painting

Key Features

  • An incredible, dynamic maritime painting by British artist Montague Dawson
  • This outstanding oil on canvas features the famed clipper, the Flying Fish
  • Built by Boston ship builder Donald Mackay, the Flying Fish was one of his renowned China clippers
  • Dawson was known as the King of the clipper ship school
  • He is regarded as the greatest maritime artist of the 20th century
  • Signed "Montague Dawson", Painted circa 1962
  • Canvas: 40 1/8" high x 50" wide; Frame: 48" high x 57 3/4" wide

Item Details

  • Width:
    C:50; F: 57 Inches
  • Height:
    C:40 1/8; F: 48 Inches
  • Period:
    20th Century
  • Origin:
  • Subject:
  • Artist:
    Dawson, Montague
Montague Dawson
1895-1973 British

The Flying Fish

Signed "Montague Dawson" (lower left)
Oil on canvas

Montague Dawson is considered the master of marine painting, famous for his breathtaking, highly detailed compositions of sailed ships at sea. By 1935, he was dubbed "the King of the Clipper Ship School," and his reputation as a ship-marine painter spread internationally. In The Flying Fish, Dawson captures the play of light and the volume of the sails, as well as the energy of white capped, churning waves as this famed vessel effortlessly glides through the water.

Known as a China clipper, the Flying Fish was designed and constructed by the "genius of clipper ship design," Boston shipbuilder Donald Mackay. The vessel was considered one of the fastest and most beautiful clippers made by Mackay. The Flying Fish launched in 1851 and weighed 1505 tons and measured 198.6 feet in length. It was the California Gold Rush of 1849 that spurred the creation of these outstanding vessels. They were a favorite of prospectors and tradesmen who found it more profitable to transport goods and supplies by boat via Cape Horn rather than covered wagon over difficult and dangerous terrain. 

The son of a keen yachtsman and grandson of marine painter Henry Dawson (1811-1878), the younger Dawson spent much of his childhood on Southampton Water where he was able to indulge his interest in the study of ships. Naturally adept at drawing and painting, the self-taught Dawson became a member of an art studio group in Bedford Row, London. By the age of 15, he was working on posters and illustrations to earn a living. For a brief period around 1910, Dawson worked for a commercial art studio in London, but with the outbreak of World War I, he joined the Royal Navy. While serving in the Navy in Falmouth, he met Charles Napier Hemy (1841-1917), who had a considerable influence on his work. Dawson was present at the final surrender of the German Grand Fleet and many of his illustrations depicting the event were published in The Sphere

After the War, Dawson established himself as a professional marine artist, concentrating on historical subjects and portraits of deep-water sailing ships, often in full sail or on high seas. During the Second World War, he was employed as a war artist and again worked for The Sphere. Dawson exhibited regularly at the Royal Society of Marine Artists and the Royal Academy from 1917 to 1936. By the 1930s, he was considered the greatest living marine artist. His patrons included two American Presidents, Dwight D. Eisenhower and Lyndon B. Johnson, as well as the British Royal Family. Near the end of his life, it was believed that Dawson was the highest paid painter in the world, second only to Pablo Picasso.

Painted circa 1962

Canvas: 40 1/8" high x 50" wide
Frame: 48" high x 57 3/4" wide

Private Collection, United States
Richard Green, London, 2005
Private Collection, Europe

Literature Featured:
Basil Lubbock, The China Clippers, 1981 edition, page 64Ron Ranson, The Maritime Paintings fo Montague Dawson, 1993, page 48

Artist's Museums:
National Maritime Museum, Greenwich
Royal Naval Museum, Portsmouth

British 19th-Century Marine Painting, 1974, Denys Brook-Hart
Dictionary of Sea Paintings, 1980, E.H.H. Archibald
Dictionnaire des Peintres, Sculpteurs, Dessinateurs et Graveurs, 1976, E. Bénézit

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Price: $785,000
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