Nelson Dawson (1859-1941) was a multi-talented artist: architect, painter, etcher jeweler, metalworker, potter and writer. He began as a painter and etcher, especially of marine scenes. Later he became a key figure in the Arts and Crafts Movement, creating beautiful, handmade objects. Working closely with his wife Edith, he designed a wide variety of items: ornaments, dishes, boxes, plaques, lamps and jewelry. Toward the end of his life he returned to painting and etching. He was an Associate of the Royal Society of Painters in Watercolours and a Fellow of the Royal Society of Painters, Etchers and Engravers.
Edith Dawson (1862-1928) was also a multi-talented artist: painter, jeweler, metalworker and writer. As a painter, her main subject was flowers. A key figure in the Arts and Crafts Movement, too, she made the items that her husband designed. Her specialty was enameling. Among their pieces were the bronze organ grille in Holy Trinity Church; a trowel and mallet used by Queen Victoria; and an ornamental box presented to President Wilson. Their studio became very successful over time and employed other craftspeople to carry out their ideas. With Nelson, she published Goldsmiths’ & Silversmiths’ Work and by herself Enamels. Their work is represented in private collections, the Victoria &Albert Museum, the British Museum and the National Maritime Museum. Rhoda and Mary, their daughters, were also artists.
Edith Dawson was born a Friend. Despite Quaker opposition to art in those days, she pursued painting and as a young woman earned considerable sums. She was also noted to wear a Quaker bonnet but trimmed with real flowers. Her daughter described her mother’s workroom as having “….the portrait of George Fox on the mantelpiece”. Nelson and she were married at Whitby Meeting in 1893. Nelson, however, supported World War One, working in a munitions factory and then seeking a position as a war artist at the Admiralty. Only after Edith’s death did he become a member of the Religious Society of Friends. His memorial service was held at Hammersmith Meetinghouse.
Nelson and Edith Dawson created gorgeous things. Above is “The Chelsea Meeting”, painted by Nelson, an exquisite watercolor depicting a Meeting for Worship gathered at the home of Caroline Stephen, author of Quaker Strongholds. Below that is a striking enameled buckle created by both of them.