Lawson, Cecil Gordon (DNB00)

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LAWSON, CECIL GORDON (1851–1882), landscape-painter, fifth and youngest son of William Lawson, a Scottish portrait-painter, was born at Wellington in Shropshire on 3 Dec. 1851. Soon afterwards his father settled in London, and Cecil while a child learned the elements of painting in his father's studio. He depended chiefly, however, on self-instruction. At the age of twelve he used to spend whole days at Hampstead, making sketches in oil of the forms of clouds, foliage of trees, and various wayside objects. In 1866 he made his first sketching tour in Kent, Surrey, and Sussex, and began to paint in water-colours careful studies of fruit and flowers, many of which have since been palmed off by unscrupulous dealers as the work of William Hunt, whom Lawson at that time imitated. In 1869 he resumed painting in oil-colours, and studied earnestly the works of the Dutch landscape-painters in the National Gallery. His first appearance at the Royal Academy was in 1870, when his 'Cheyne Walk, Chelsea,' a view taken from the windows of the house in which his father then resided, was hung on the line. In 1871 he sent 'The River in Rain' and 'A Summer Evening at Cheyne Walk,' which were likewise placed on the line, but in 1872 another river scene, called 'A Lament,' was skied, while 'A Hymn to Spring,' a more ambitious work, in which he departed from the traditions of the Dutch school, and came under the influence of Gainsborough, was excluded. In 1872 also he painted the 'Song of Summer,' and in 1873, during a visit to Ireland, 'Twilight Grey.' 'A Pastoral: in the Vale of Meifod, North Wales,' appeared in the Royal Academy in 1873, but in 1874 his two pictures, 'The Foundry' and 'The Bell Inn,' were rejected. He then spent a few weeks in Holland, Belgium, and Paris, and afterwards settled down at Wrotham in Kent, where he began his large picture of 'The Hop Gardens of England.' This he sent to the Royal Academy in 1875, but to his great mortification it was not accepted. In 1876, however, it was hung in a good position and attracted much attention. In 1877 he exhibited a 'View from Don Saltero's in Cheyne Walk, Chelsea, temp. 1777,' and in the same year painted a large and impressive landscape called 'The Minister's Garden,' which he described as a tribute to the memory of Oliver Goldsmith. This work, now in the Manchester Art Gallery, is a poetical conception of nature of very great merit. It was exhibited at the Grosvenor Gallery in 1878, together with 'Strayed: a Moonlight Pastoral,' now belonging to Mr. Cyril Flower, and 'In the Valley: a Pastoral.' In the same year he sent to the Royal Academy 'The Wet Moon, Old Battersea,' and 'An Autumn Sunrise,' suggested by the words in 'Hamlet.'

'The morn in russet mantle clad.'

His contributions to the Royal Academy in 1879 consisted of 'Sundown,' 'Old Battersea, Moonlight,' and 'A Wet Moon,' and among the seven works which he sent to the Grosvenor Gallery were 'Twixt Sun and Moon,' 'The Haunted Mill,' and 'The Hop Gardens of England,' which he had in part repainted, and renamed 'Kent.' It was engraved by John Saddler for the 'Art Journal' for January 1880. Lawson married in 1879 Constance, daughter of John Birnie Philip the sculptor, and after spending the honeymoon in Switzerland took up his residence at Heathedge, Haslemere, Surrey, where he finished a large picture, begun some time before, called 'The Voice of the Cuckoo.' which contained portraits of the daughters of Mrs. Philip Flower. This appeared at the Grosvenor Gallery in 1880, in company with 'The August Moon.' which was painted at Blackdown, near Haslemere, and presented to the National Gallery by his widow in 1883, in fulfilment of the artist's wish. His contribution to the Royal Academy in 1880 was 'A Moonlight Pastoral.' His next works were Yorkshire views, painted for Mr. Henry Mason of Bingley. Of these, 'Wharfedale' and 'In the Valley of Desolation,' a view near Bolton, were exhibited in the Grosvenor Gallery in 1881, while 'Barden Moore.' together with 'The Pool.' appeared at the Royal Academy.

Lawson's health, which had for some time been failing, broke down towards the close of 1881. He went to the Riviera, but while there he painted only one picture, 'On the Road to Monaco.' which appeared with 'The Storm-Cloud, West Lynn, Worth Devon,' and 'September' in the Grosvenor Gallery in 188a. The last works which he contributed to the Royal Academy were 'Blackdown, Surrey.' and 'The Doone Valley, North Devon.' After returning to England Lawson suffered a relapse, and a visit to Eastbourne proved of no benefit. He died at West Brompton, of inflammation of the lungs, on 10 June 1882, and was buried at Haslemere. Lawson's work was always poetic and original, although deeply influenced by the realistic and impressionist tendencies of his time. A portrait of him, etched by Hubert Herkomer, R. A., from a water-colour drawing made by the artist in 1876, is prefixed to Mr. Gosse's memoir. Mrs. Lawson has been from 1874 a frequent exhibitor of water-colour drawings of flowers at the Royal Academy and other exhibitions.

[Cecil Lawson, a Memoir, by Edmund W. Gosse, Lond. 1883, 4to; Times, 13 June 1882; Academy, 1882, i. 439; Athenæum, 1882, i. 770; Art Journal, 1882, p. 223; Royal Academy Exhibition Catalogues, 1870-82; Grosvenor Gallery Exhibition Catalogues, 1878-82.]

R. E. G.