Whether painting a single ship on the open sea or a dramatic mêlée between vessels, Dawson’s work was characterized by his dynamic depictions of moving water and his fastidious representation of a ship’s anatomy, qualities evident in this rendition of the Red Jacket.
More information about this painting...
His immense technical accuracy in capturing the movement and appearance of a variety of vessels largely stemmed from his formative years spent studying ships at Southampton, England, where his father worked as a yachtsman and engineer. Built in Rockland, Maine, in 1853, the extreme clipper ship Red Jacket was named after the Seneca Indian Chief Sagoyewatha, who acted as scout for the British forces during the Revolutionary War and was often attired in the red jacket of a British soldier. On January 11, 1854, the Red Jacket left New York on her first ocean crossing and would thenceforth never return to American shores. After several days of stormy weather, she arrived in Liverpool on January 23, thus breaking the standing record for a trans-Atlantic passage set by the Sovereign of the Seas one year earlier. The margin of difference was 21 hours. Upon arriving in Liverpool, she was greeted by a multitude of admirers who came to see the graceful lines and beautifully carved life-sized figurehead of her namesake, complete with red jacket and feathered headdress. The Liverpool Journal reported:
“The Red Jacket in general appearance of hull, spars, rigging and deck arrangements is very much after the style of the celebrated Sovereign of the Seas; but she appears to have rather more ‘Spring’ forward and she certainly has more outside ornament in the shape of a full length figure head, and an elaborate design in gilt work on her stern extending also down each side of the rudder.”
Soon after, the Red Jacket was purchased by agents for the White Star Line and fitted out for the Australian emigrant trade.
By descent through one family for three generations
Remnants of a handwritten label: (torn)–ed Jacket