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Lawson, Cecil Gordon

LAWSON, CECIL GORDON (1851-1882), English landscape painter, was the youngest son of William Lawson of Edinburgh, esteemed as a portrait painter. His mother also was known for her flower pieces. He was born near Shrewsbury on the 3rd of December 1851. Two of his brothers (one of them, Malcolm, a clever musician and song-writer) were trained as artists, and Cecil was from childhood devoted to art with the intensity of a serious nature. Soon after his birth the Lawsons moved to London. Lawson's first works were studies of fruit, flowers, etc., in the manner of W. Hunt; followed by riverside Chelsea subjects. His first exhibit at the Royal Academy (1870) was " Cheyne Walk," and in 1871 he sent two other Chelsea subjects. These gained full recognition from fellowartists, if not from the public. Among his friends were now numbered Fred Walker, G. J. Pinwell and their associates. Following them, he made a certain number of drawings for wood-engraving. Lawson's Chelsea pictures had been painted in somewhat low and sombre tones; in the " Hymn to Spring " of 1872 (rejected by the Academy) he turned to a more joyous play of colour, helped by work in more romantic scenes in North Wales and Ireland. Early in 1874 he made a short tour in Holland, Belgium and Paris; and in the summer he painted his large " Hop Gardens of England." This was much praised at the Academy of 1876. But Lawson's triumph was with the great luxuriant canvas " The Minister's Garden," exhibited in 1878 at the Grosvenor Gallery, and now in the Manchester Art Gallery. This was followed by several works conceived in a new and tragic mood. His health began to fail, but he worked on. He married in 1879 the daughter of Birnie Philip, and settled at Haslemere. His later subjects are from this neighbourhood (the most famous being " The August Moon," now in the National Gallery of British Art) or from Yorkshire. Towards the end of 1881 he went to the Riviera, returned in the spring, and died at Haslemere on the loth of June 1882. Lawson may be said to have restored to English landscape the tradition of Gainsborough, Crome and Constable, infused with an imaginative intensity of his own. Among English landscape painters of the latter part of the 1pth century his is in many respects the most interesting name.

See E. W. Gosse, Cecil Lawson, a Memoir (1883); Heseltine Owen, " In Memoriarn: Cecil Gordon Lawson," Magazine of Art (1894). (L.B.)

Note - this article incorporates content from Encyclopaedia Britannica, Eleventh Edition, (1910-1911)

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