The Red Jacket on Open Seas

by Montague Dawson

P.O.A.

DIMENSIONS: (unframed) 20.00 x 30.00 ins/ 50.8 x 76.3 cms

SIGNATURE: Signed lower right

MEDIUM:  Oil on canvas

Catalogue No: 4539 Categories: , ,

Built in Maine by George Thomas and launched in November 1853, Red Jacket remains one of the fastest ships ever built. She was named for the Seneca chief Red Jacket (Sagoyewatha, or “he that keeps them awake”), from the Genesee River Valley. The ship’s figurehead was a magnificent life-size carving of Sagoyewatha, complete with his namesake red jacket, given to him by the British, and a feather headdress. Her maiden voyage is among the most famous in the history of clipper ships. Captain Asa Eldridge, a Yarmouth, Cape Cod skipper and an internationally recognized navigator, was in command when she left New York on January 11, 1854, bound for Liverpool. Despite the treacherous winter storms of the North Atlantic, with snow, hail or rain every day, the Red Jacket tore along, determined to reach her destination. She cast her anchor in Liverpool Harbor exactly 13 days, 1 hour and 25 minutes later, a record-smashing run that remains unbroken today, making her one of the seven fastest sailing ships in history. After a number of additional record breaking trips to Australia between 1854-1860 under the charter of the White Star Line, Red Jacket joined the clippers Marco Polo and Donald McKay carrying timber between London and Quebec, eventually ending her career in the Cape Verde islands in the 1880s as a coaling hulk. Completed in 1937, this portrayal of Red Jacket cutting gracefully through the waves of an open sea is a testament to this ship’s legacy as one of the most majestic American clippers to ever set sail and demonstrates why Dawson’s depictions of clipper ships are among the most celebrated paintings of his career.

Provenance

Frost & Reed, Ltd., London (acquired directly from the artist, January 23, 1937, no. 6937)
Property of a Private Collector (and sold, Christie’s, New York, February 1, 2006, lot 292, illustrated)
Quester Gallery, Stonington, Connecticut
Private Collection, Michigan
Private Collection, United Kingdom

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Biography

Montague Dawson is widely considered the leading Marine artist of the Twentieth Century. Painting the sea was in Montague Dawson’s heritage – his grandfather being marine painter Henry Dawson (1811-1878). His father was also a keen yachtsman, and much of his childhood was spent on Southampton Water where he watched, sailed and studied ships. Around 1910, Dawson decided to work at a commercial art studio in London, but when the First World War broke out he joined the Royal Navy. Charles Napier Hemy (1841-1917), a fellow fighter he met in Falmouth, considerably influenced Dawson’s 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 newspaper, ‘The Sphere’. After the War, Montague Dawson established himself as a professional marine artist. Stylistically he worked with great attention to detail and accuracy, concentrating on historical subjects and portraits of deep-water sailing ships. The ships are often sailing at a stiff breeze or on high seas, giving Dawson the opportunity to display his bravura with looser, longer brushstrokes.

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