Sunday, December 6, 2009
Sir John Lavery
Sir John Lavery's art is still deservedly popular, especially in his native land of Ireland where his paintings were attracting high prices recently.
The artist was descended from an ancient King, Labhradh
Loingseach, according to John Lavery and his Work by R.B. Cunninghame Graham. This name means 'Lavery the Mariner'.
He didn't have an auspicious start in life, considering that he was the descendent of a king, however.
Born in Belfast in 1856, Lavery was the son of a failed publican who died at sea while trying to immigrate to America. His mother died soon afterwards and the young orphan was raised by relatives.
He soon showed a talent for painting and studied at the Haldane Academy, Glasgow and the Academie Julien, Paris. He was strongly influenced by the 'Glasgow School' and Whistler's paintings. He also became friends with Whistler.
His break came when he was commissioned to paint Queen Victoria's visit to the Glasgow International Exhibition. He moved to London and became a society painter, with important friends such as the Asquiths and the Churchills. His subjects included Anna Pavlova and the Asquiths.
Lavery painted more than 400 portraits of his beautiful second wife, the Irish-American Hazel Martyn Trudeau who was much younger. He married her in 1909. His first wife, Kathleen MacDermott, with whom he had aone daughter, Eileen, died in 1889 of TB.
The government commissioned Lavery as a War Artist in the First World War bu ill-health and a car-crash prevented him from going to the Western Front. He painted the Home Front and his paintings include the North Sea, The End, and The Cemetery, Etaples. He received a knighthood and was elected to the Royal Academy in 1921.
Lavery became very interested in the Irish 'troubles' and painted pictures of the trial of Sir Roger Casement. He and Hazel held the negotations for the Anglo-Irish
Treaty at their house in London.
Hazel fell for the handsome, young Irishman, Michael Collins, and wrote him poetry and sentimental letters. Whether they had an affair is doubtful because Collins was very Catholic, engaged and the much older Hazel had lost much of her beauty. This did not stop her from trying to throw herself on his grave. (One wonders what her husband thought!)
Lavery went back to his beloved Ireland in the 1930's. He died at 84 in 1941.