Nelson Ethelred Dawson Biography

Nelson Ethelred Dawson




Painter, printmaker, ceramicist, jeweler, and designer Nelson Ethelred Dawson was a noted member of the English Arts and Crafts movement. Born in Lincolnshire, England, in 1859, he was primarily self-taught in the arts. Following his graduation from the Stamford School for Boys he moved to Chelsea, London, opening a painting studio with painter Ernest Dade, where he began a career as a painter of marine and nautical life. He took courses in silversmithing and enameling from famed English master enameler Alexander Smith, which allowed him to expand his professional oeuvre during the rise of the decorative art scene.

He quickly became acquainted with leading artists of the time, including Frank Bragnwyn and James Whistler, and was elected an associate member of the Royal Watercolor Society and a Fellow of the Royal Society of Painter-Etchers and Engravers. In 1893 he married artist Edith Robinson, and together they founded a design studio in which they produced objets d'art such as enameled boxes, jewelery, and ceramics. Studio Magazine highlighted their work in an 1897 article about bohemian artists in London, and they began to receive major commissions, among them the organ at the Holy Trinity Church in Chelsea; the gates of Hull Guildhall; and, in 1899, the ceremonial trowel used by Queen Victoria for the groundbreaking of the Victoria and Albert Museum.

When the couple closed their studio in 1909, Dawson focused on printmaking, returning once more to his beloved nautical themes. Living for a time on the Yorkshire Coast, he was particularly inspired by the traditional fishing boats and the fishermen whose livelihoods were slowly being replaced by mechanized steam trawlers. He traveled throughout Europe cataloging his visits to ports in Italy and France. With the outbreak of World War I, he created a series of etchings recounting the role of Brits in maritime clashes with Germany. He was also an illustrator, creating works for works such as the book A Wanderer in London, a travelogue by E.V. Lucas (1904).

Dawson continued to work in a variety of media until the late 1930s. After retirement he donated his collection to the Stamford School, and in 2008 the school held a retrospective of his work. Georgetown University held an exhibition of his marine views called "Etched by the Sea" in 2009.

Dawson died in London in 1941.