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MONTAGUE DAWSON | Smuggling off the Needles
  • MONTAGUE DAWSON | Smuggling off the Needles


    20¼" x 30¼" / 51.5 x 76.75 cms
    Oil on Canvas


    The sea around the Needles has long been considered one of the most dangerous areas for sailing off the South Coast. Extending for three miles off the end of the formation are the Shingles, a bank of pebbles just below the waterline upon which myriad ships have been wrecked. With smuggling operations heavily po- liced by the Royal Navy, many ships were for ced to navigate perilous waters in order to increase their chances of success.


    The type of chase seen in this image was not unusual in the Early Modern period. While

    most smugglers would attempt to flee Crown officers, one incident in 1784 ‘The Battle of Mudeford’ actually saw the death of a Customs and Excise officer in a gunnery duel, further evidenc- ing the danger of the cat and mouse play in the channel. This threat of combat is implicit in Dawson’s work, as the ship being chased appears to be far larger than the luggers that smugglers favoured. The romanticising narrative around smuggling on the Southern Coast of Britain still grips the national imagination, a mood well captured in this painting.

    • One of the greatest marine artists of all time, Montague Dawson was drawn to the lure of the open sea and was enchanted by the romantic history and the graceful design of the old sleek clipper ships.

      During his time as a young naval officer in the First World War, Dawson combined his passion with his natural talent for drawing, and would spend the remainder of his life as a professional painter and illustrator.

      Dawson enjoyed painting magnificent clipper ships in battle scenes, in races and occasionally silhouetted alone against the horizon, almost as if he was painting a portrait of an old friend.

      He began exhibiting at the Royal Academy in 1917, was elected a fellow of the Royal Society of Arts in 1936 and later became a founder member of the Royal Society of Marine Artists.

      Dawson enjoyed the patronage of many influential figures of his day including President Lyndon B. Johnson and the British Royal Family.

      Read more about Montague Dawson.