In addition to his talent in depicting great sailing vessels of the past, Montague Dawson was quite gifted in portraying events of his own era, especially naval events of the Second World War. In his capacity as an official war artist, Dawson contributed significantly to the major British news publications employing a classical technique suitable for newsprint - grisaille.
The Sphere, a large journal and publishers of his works, used this painting in June 29, 1940. Dawson’s successful rendering gives the viewer a rare and nearly full depiction of a partially submerged Italian Submarine. The painting depicts the sub on patrol off Libya just after the start of hostilities between the British and Italian forces in North Africa. The waters of the Mediterranean were problematic for submarine warfare, being far clearer than the Atlantic, making subs easier to spot from the air. The article explains that British fighters had spotted the sub and scrambled a Blenheim bomber which attacked the sub and sank it. Light conditions made it much harder for ships to spot submarines in this area, so on the horizon, a British cruiser patrols, unaware of the danger nearby.
Many connoisseurs feel that this period and subject matter are Dawson’s most honest, powerful work as he was a part of these important historic events. His family history, his own Naval experience and his well-developed skills made him uniquely qualified to chronicle Naval history as it happened.
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