Pick of the week
Most frustratingly, almost everything that I should like to write about Montague Dawson’s paintings of the sea and ships has been expressed by Martyn Downer, the Nelsonian historian, in his succinct introductory essay to Macconnal-mason’s forthcoming show. The only painter that I can think of who comes close to Dawson as a portraitist of timeless, soulless, all-powerful seawater is Charles Napier Hemy, but Dawson outdoes him in conveying the unity of water and wind by which all vessels, and particularly sailing vessels, are held suspended. There is excitement, and often danger, in every one of the 20 canvases on offer at 17, Duke Street, St James’s, SW1, between June 20 and July 7, whether the subject is racing on the Solent, Cutty Sark rounding the Horn or Thames barges in a stiff North Sea breeze. Then there is more immediate danger in The Stricken Kelly (above), Lord Mountbatten’s unchancy destroyer that escaped destruction three times between December 1939 and May 1940, only to be sunk with the loss of half her crew off Crete in May 1941. Dawson’s painting, which so pleased Mountbatten that he commissioned a larger version, shows the earlier action during the Battle of Norway, when she was torpedoed and hit by numerous divebombers before being towed to safety.