The Work of Sir John Lavery

Irish artist John Lavery created a diverse body of work that spanned from elegant portraits of rich and famous patrons to scenes of naval bases, munitions factories, garden parties and racing tracks.  He provided a unique view in to the lavish glamour of celebrity and the everyday work of his time.  Tragicly orphaned and cared for by various relatives, Lavery came from humble beginnings and sparked an interest in art after seeing the sketches of a traveling artist while he stayed with his aunt in Ayrshire.  After a period of unrest and failed vocations as a young man between Ireland and Scotland he studied in Glasgow and Paris during particularly vibrant artistic periods in both cities. Lavery found success and wide publicity on his return to Glasgow when he was commissioned to paint the state visit of Queen Victoria in 1888, propelling him to fame as a society painter and influencing his decision to move to London where he befriended hugely influential figures like Whistler, a clear influence in his style and technique.  He was appointed a war artist during world war I but worked on home ground due to restrictions of ill health and injury.  Though presumably frustrating, this restriction gave his work a fascinating and revealing perspective as he depicted the war from the point of view of the country in affected.  He showed the mechanisms of preparation, the work and social climate of industry during the war, the aftermath and the toil that propelled British forces to battle.  Knighted after the war, Lavery found himself elected to the Royal Academy but despite his acclaim and comfort in the UK, he never forgot his Irish heritage and he and his wife gave use of their home to negotiators during the Irish War of Independence and the Irish Civil War.  He donated his work to various Irish institutions and was made a free man of Belfast and Dublin.  Lavery’s sumptious and elegant paintings included multiple images of his beloved second wife who he was clearly obsessed with and who apparently enjoyed the affections of other influential men perhaps exasurbating his compulsive infatuation of her beauty.  This is clear in his idealised and romantic visions of her which he describes in delicate detail and with infectious admiration.  Focusing on subject matter that was dynamic and interesting, photo-like in its immediacy and lavish in his use of bright colour, he was drawn to beauty and poise.  There is a life-like immediacy about his drawings and paintings where nothing seems posed or deliberate and he includes his audience not as distant spectators but as active participants, included and equal.  His expressive brushstrokes, vivid colours and frank yet realistic depiction of the time characterise his beautiful creations and provide an incredible insight into the environment of the last century.

LG_33Southampton Dock 1944 by Alan Sorrell 1904-1974 sir john lavery11 sir john lavery10 Sir-John-Lavery9 sir john lavery8 Sir-John-Lavery7 Sir John Lavery6 Sir John Lavery5 The Jockeys' Dressing Room at Ascot 1923 by Sir John Lavery 1856-1941 Sir John Lavery sir john lavery 14 The Glasgow Exhibition, 1888 1888 by Sir John Lavery 1856-1941


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