British 19th C, except portraits, East Midlands: Artists and Subjects 28 Did Henry Dawson (1811–1878) paint 'Dovedale Landscape, Derbyshire'?

BCN_WFM_1938_25_50
Topic: Artist

Could this be the work of Henry Dawson (1811–1878)? I assume the present artist identification derives from a signature on the painting.

Dawson sometimes signed with a monogram 'HD'; at other times, especially in his later career, he signed more fully 'H. Dawson'. He exhibited Dovedale subjects at the RA and BI in 1843, when he was living in Nottingham.

28 comments

The painting is signed with an HD mongram and dated bottom right. Dawson's style is what I would call somewhat nondescript and, as is so often the case with Art Detective, the image size makes it impossible to judge attributions from style alone. This painting has a slightly naive quality to me, but this too is not incompatible with Dawson - who was after all was a self-taught artist. It would be good to have the opinion of Sarah Skinner, Group Leader for East Midlands subjects.

Tim Williams,

Can someone at the collection confirm the date? To me the date (next to the monogram) looks like 1883 or 1885? (though on a very pixelated zoom). The monogram could also be ED or EB.... a close up image of both would be helpful if possible.

Edward Stone,

We have contacted the collection about this and will post any further information we receive.

Martin Hopkinson,

The site is Ilam see the painting Ilam Rock by an unknown artist in Buxton Museum and Art Gallery

Well spotted Martin: I would be surprised if this was Dawson, albeit I usually only see his marine work: it looks much more like an early 19th or perhaps late-18th c picture and reminds me of John Webber, though I don't think by him albeit he did a Derbyshire tour

Martin Hopkinson,

The 18th century painter who particularly was known for his representations of this part of Derbyshire was Thomas Smith of Derby who died in 1767.
Nicholas Alfrey has recently published a webpage in the British Library's Picturing Places series on Thomas Smith's 8 prints 'Extraordinary prospects ... ' of Derbyshire and Staffordshire , the Peak District and the Moorlands. https://www.bl.uk/picturing-places/articles/thomas-smith-of-derby
The set was announced in a prospectus in June 1743 and reissued by Smith in 1757, and republished by John Boydell in 1769 after the artist's death.
There is an aquatint by John Bluck [active c. 1791-1832]
of Ilam Rock [looking the other direction] in King George III's topographical collection Ktop11 item 20a
Did Bluck paint oils? For it seems more likely that the painting under discussion dates from his lifetime

Martin Hopkinson,

Buxton Museum owns watercolours by Bluck which were included in the 2013 exhibition Derbyshire in the Age of Enlightenment
William Home Lizars engraved Edward Price's 'Twelve views in Dovedale and Ilam' published in Ashbourne and London in the 1840s [Yale Center for British Art and British Library]

Martin Hopkinson,

But if the date is really 1856 , none of these artists are likely to have painted this - but one cannot rule out the possibility that it was copied from an earlier engraving, watercolour or painting.
J R Abbey's Scenery ... 111 is William Adam's 'The Gem of the Peak...' ,
1840 [including Ilam] which was illustrated by Edward Bird and George Rowe, neither of whom are likely to be our artist.

Martin Hopkinson,

The Victoria and Albert Museum's c. 1840 Dawson 'Rocky landscape with a river and sheep' might well be of Dovedale, but it is not by the artist for whom we are looking

Martin Hopkinson,

HD could of course be an amateur
Also is it certain that it is dated 1856 and not simply 56 - which would make 1756 a possibility? - make it also possible that it is something to do with Smith of Derby and his circle

Martin Hopkinson,

A large painting by Smith in the Government Art Collection 'Landscape valley in Derbyshire' is undoubtedly also of Dovedale. It is of the same part of the dale as was engraved in 1743 by Antoine Benoist as the 1st of Smith's 'Prospects...' as A Prospect in Dove-dale 3 miles north of Ashbourn' . The composition is similar, but not the same as in the engraving. Although the landscape is in the same direction, the tall isolated tree is on the right in the painting, but on the left in the print. The figures are also not the same. The Government Art Collection dates the painting to c. 1760, possibly correctly.
Could the painting in Wisbech be by the same hand? It does not seem very likely - but an 18th century date cannot be ruled out, I think

Martin Hopkinson,

Benoist's print was an etching and not an engraving . Impressions can be found in the British Museum and elsewhere.

Martin Hopkinson,

Trevor Brighton has published in A Derbyshire Miscellany, XX, 1 , Spring, 2013, pp. 2-11 an important article on Smith. A prospect in Dove-dale is illustrated on p.5

Osmund Bullock,

Could we jog the Collection for that close-up (or visual confirmation) of the monogram and date, please? Like Tim three months ago, I am far from sure about the reading we have. The image resolution is unusually low, even for Art UK; but with a bit of tweaking (see attached) I tend towards ED, not HD for the letters. For the date, after 18 (which seems secure) the next digit could easily be 3 (or 8) rather than 5, and the final one seems most likely to be 5 or 6...but as we know well here, these low-res images can be very deceptive.

Of course a higher-res of the whole picture would be better still...

1 attachment
Martin Hopkinson,

The forestation would suggest that the painting was quite a bit later than Thomas Smith's day- its rather amorphous treatment would support the idea that the monogrammist was an amateur.

Edward Stone,

We have contacted the collection again and will post a high-resolution detail if given permission to do so. For what it's worth, the monogrammed initials look, to me, like H. D. and the date appears to read 1856.

Martin Hopkinson,

If 1856 stylistically it cannot be by Henry Dawson, but must be by another [possibly amateur] artist who shared his initials

Edward Stone,

The collection has kindly given us permission to attach a higher-resolution detail of the monogram and date at the lower-right of the painting. It is attached below.

1 attachment
Martin Hopkinson,

An alternative reading of this monogram would be FD

Robin Campbell 01,

So far there's nothing in this thread against Richard Green's original suggestion of Henry Dawson, and some things in favour of it. Can Martin Hopkinson substantiate his claim about Dawson's style not fitting the 1856 date? If not, then I think Henry Dawson is as good as we're going to get with this.

Martin Hopkinson,

The painting's style is nothing like that of any painting that is securely established as by Dawson. By 1856 he was an established artist. None of his landscape paintings of the 1850s are anything like this

Robin Campbell 01,

Perhaps the attached Dawson painting sold by Chorley's 20-9-17, Lot 1015, might be of interest. The treatment of sky and rocks seems quite similar to the Wisbech picture, and there is an identical 'HD' monogram bottom left. The date might be '59, but it is unclear.

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Martin Hopkinson,

I do not think that this painting is by Henry Dawson either. What we need is a painting that was certainly painted by him with which to compare the Wisbech picture

Robin Campbell 01,

I think that Martin Hopkinson should attempt to go beyond rejection of Henry Dawson. Who is his candidate alternative artist who signs with monogram HD, sharing right upright of the H with left upright of the D? The unknown 'amateur' will hardly do either. This is a large and ambitious work. There is impressive handling of sky, rocks, trees, water, figures and most particularly aerial perspective. I would be happy to hang it on the wall, and I imagine that the Wisbech Gallery is too.

Martin Hopkinson,

Buxton Museum and Art Gallery owns 'A view in Dovedale , Derbyshire' which may well be Dawson's exhibit at the Royal Academy in 1843 no 329 'Dovedale, Derbyshire' . Its style does not remotely resemble that shown in the painting under discussion.

Just to point out that while the four identified landscape subjects among the six pictures Dawson exhibited at the RA, from his first appearance there in 1838 to 1844, were of Derbyshire, it was not a subject he returned to for RA purposes. All were done while he lived in Nottingham, before moving to Liverpool (by 1848) and then south. His only later occasional Midlands and northern subjects at the RA were of Lancashire, Leicestershire, Nottinghamshire and the Lake District. While only indicative, it suggests Derbyshire was off his menu by the mid/late 1850s.

Kieran Owens,

Tweeking the Museum's attached image of the monogram and date reasonably shows that the date is 1856 rather that a date in the 1880s.

1 attachment
Kieran Owens,

Would it be possible for the Wisbech & Fenland Museum to take a photograph of the back of this painting and to then post it on this site?

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