Sir John  Lavery  




SUNBATHERS, 1936

Sir John Lavery (20 March 1856 – 10 January 1941) was born in Belfast. He endured very poor conditions as a very young child. His father decided to emigrate alone and call for his wife and children later, so as to better their lot, but tragically died along with 386 other passengers when their vessel the Pomona went down off the coast of Wexford.

The young Lavery was adopted by his uncle Richard Lavery when his father died. Detesting arithmetic he skipped school and took a job as a retoucher in a studio. This was the beginning of his astounding artistic career. In the 1870s he attended the Haldane Academy in Glasgow. He travelled to Paris in the early 1880s to study at the Académie Julian. He also spent time at the artist’s colony Grez-sur-Loing where he became friends with fellow Irish artist Frank O’Meara.
After his time in Paris he returned to Glasgow and became part of the movement of realism and naturalism in painting which is associated with the Glasgow school. He is numbered among what are now referred to as the Glasgow Boys along with Alexander Mann and James Guthrie to name a few. In 1888 Queen Victoria made a state visit to Scotland to attend the Glasgow International Exhibition, this was the greatest exhibition of its kind outside of London at the time. The Exhibition was held in part to raise funds to build the new Art Gallery and Museum at Kelvingrove which opened in 1901. lavery won the commission to record this momentous occasion and spent two years on the large work. The painting is composed and executed in such a way that all 253 people can be seen clearly. This launched his career as a society painter and he moved to London soon after. There he became friends with James McNeill Whistler who would be an influence on him.


Artist's Gallery