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Montague Dawson

Night Suspect
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 Montague Dawson
British, (1895-1973)

Night Suspect

Oil on Canvas  Dated 1958 
40 x 50 Inches  53 x 63 Inches Framed 
Signed LL: Montague Dawson 

A famous work of art by the prodigious and prolific Montague Dawson, “Night Suspect” proved to be a perfect choice by the artist for exhibition in the 1958 Royal Society of Marine Painters’ London Guildhall. The impact of the drama shown on deck and its personalization of the chase of the smugglers by the Royal Navy Revenue Service sailors, cannons blazing, is amazing. We know of less than six other Dawson works that display such a precise view of action ondeck, including the iconic “The Rising Wind”, widely recognized due to prints featuring that painting. None of these other deck scenes are of a ship engaged in a pursuit, firing cannons.

Dawson said he himself “battled” through his blank canvases, from sketches, models and preliminary paintings to deliver his large scale masterpieces. He was known for working day and night, driven to succeed and finding a personal joy at his chosen profession. As a young man his family lived in Southampton in the residence known then and now as “The Smuggler’s House”, and he served firsthand in the British Navy Reserve and was well familiar with the last sail/steam warships of the British Navy. Likely he’d have held sympathy for both crews he has painted in this masterpiece.

In an action taking place within the English Channel, possibly the approach to Deal, a known haven for smugglers, Dawson’s Revenue Service men have sighted and sprung upon a brigantine. Dawson has the full moonlight glorious catching the ships and sea, making the potentially deadly action radiate with the romance of adventure on the high seas. This work has it all.

Frost & Reed Label Verso, “Night Surprise” #24750, 1958.

Provenance: Frost & Reed, London, 1960; Private American Collection.

Exhibited: Royal Society of Marine Painters, 1958, London Guildhall, No.67.

Please click here for a short Montague Dawson biography.

For more information about Dawson's "Night Suspect ", please send us an email at

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