Lawson, Ernest


The Race Is On

Lawson, Ernest - Canadian-American (1873-1939) - The Race Is On
Lawson, Ernest - Canadian-American (1873-1939) - The Race Is On
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  • Artist Name: Lawson, Ernest
  • Artist Nationality: Canadian-American
  • Birth-Death Dates: (1873-1939)
  • Artwork Title: The Race Is On
  • Subject: Maritime
  • Medium: Oil on canvas
  • Signed: Lower right, “Lawson”
  • Presentation: Frame is wood, gold filigree
  • Unframed Dimensions: 16” x 20”

Canadian-American painter Ernest Lawson was born in Halifax, Nova Scotia in 22 March 1873. He was raised by an aunt in Ontario. Throughout his life, he was peripatetic, like his father, calling many places home on the European continent and in North America. However, he became most recognized for his associations and life in and around New York City, establishing himself as a bona-fide member of The Eight, alongside his friends and colleague-painters, William Glackens, Everett Shinn, John Sloan, Robert Henri, George Luks, Maurice Prendergast and Arthur B. Davies.

When Lawson was 15 years old, in 1888, he and his parents moved to Kansas City. What was the world like at that time? Dutch genius Vincent van Gogh cut off the lower part of his left ear with a razor while staying in Arles, France on 23 December of that year. On the Continent, Queen Victoria granted a charter to the Imperial British East Africa Company, Willhelm II became Emperor of Germany and George Frideric Handel’s Israel in Egypt became one of the first classical musical Oratorios to be recorded on Edison’s yellow paraffin cylinder. At home, Frederick Douglass was the 1st African-American nominated for President while, later in the year, Benjamin Harrison, Republican from Indiana, overcame Democratic President Grover Cleveland in the electoral college for the US Presidency (even though Cleveland received more of the popular vote.)

In 1889 Lawson and his father moved to Mexico. While in Mexico City, Lawson worked as a draftsman and went to school at Santa Clara Art Academy. He later moved to New York to study at the Art Students League in 1891 and, later in the decade, to study at Cos Cob, Connecticut with American masters John Henry Twachtman and Julian Alden Weir.

Lawson visited Paris several times. In 1893, he studied at Academie Julian. Alfred Sisley, who Lawson met in Paris, advised him to be more assertive in his brushstrokes.

In 1895 Lawson moved to Toronto, Canada and then soon after moved to Columbus, Georgia and then returned to New York City’s Washington Heights.

In turn-of-the century New York, Lawson completed some of his most important works. He exhibited with The Eight in 1908 while, several years later, the iconic New York City Armory Show in 1913 brought him national recognition. In 1916 he visited Spain multiple times, and in 1924 he returned briefly to Nova Scotia. Lawson taught in Missouri and Colorado in 1926 and 1927.

At the end of his life, Lawson moved to Florida. On 18 December 1939, his lifeless body was found on a beach. The cause of his death remains a mystery.

Sources: “Ernest Lawson (1873-1939)”[internet]. 2000-2013[cited 2 July 2013].
Available at:

Baigell, Matthew. Dictionary of American Art: Icon Editions. New York. Harper & Row1979. p.206.

“Ernest Lawson”[Internet]. [last modified 9 Jun 13; cited 7 Jul 13].
Available from:

Zellman, Michael David (compiled by). Rebecca Stefoff, Ed. “Ernest Lawson” in 300 Years of American Art: Volume II. Hong Kong. The Wellfleet Press. 1986. p. 655.

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