Painter and sculptor. An early contributor to abstraction, he flourished as an artist for only a few years. Born in Chicago, he trained there as a civil engineer. Upon graduation in 1909 from the Armour Institute of Technology (now Illinois Institute of Technology), he joined the architectural firm of Holabird and Roche. On his own, he already had been painting for several years, trying out varied stylistic approaches. Early Whistlerian landscapes preceded compositions featuring insubstantial nudes in outdoor settings. Evidence of Cézanne's influence soon followed. Independently, he formulated the idea that art, like music, could be separated from representation. He apparently began to paint abstractly in the spring of 1910, even before departing later that year for a five-month tour of Europe. Prognostic (Milwaukee Art Center, 1910) suggests Kandinsky's contemporaneous abstractions from landscape, which Dawson could not have known. Subsequent rhythmic compositions suggest knowledge of cubism and sometimes anticipate aspects of futurism. In 1911–12 he produced notable semi-abstract figural studies, such as Lucrece (John and Mable Ringling Museum of Art, Sarasota, Florida, 1911). During these years, he exhibited in several progressive art shows, including the Chicago installation of the 1913 Armory Show. In the spring of 1914, the twenty-six-year-old artist moved to a farm in Ludington, Michigan. There, living in isolation, he often could not afford to buy art supplies. He continued to paint sporadically, as well as to experiment with sculpture, but his career as a potentially significant artist had ended. He later moved to Sarasota, Florida, where he died.