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An Irish Impressionist: Lavery on Location

Let Glasgow Boy Sir John Lavery whisk you away on his tantalising travels in National Galleries of Scotland's summer exhibition.

An Irish Impressionist: Lavery on Location

Article Source: National Galleries of Scotland
Last Updated: 5 June 2024 14:02

National Galleries of Scotland exhibition at the Royal Scottish Academy
20 July–27 October 2024

Indulge your wanderlust with An Irish Impressionist: Lavery on Location, at the National Galleries of Scotland’s summer exhibition at the Royal Scottish Academy in Edinburgh, running from 20 July 2024 to 27 October 2024.

Dip your toes in the sun, sea and society of the late 19th and early 20th centuries, viewed through the works of renowned Glasgow Boy, Sir John Lavery.

Tickets are on sale HERE

Take a trip through the extraordinary life of the Belfast-born artist, from Scotland to New York via Paris and Morocco. Lavery never travelled without his painting kit, and the exhibition explores some of the key locations shown in his art. See sumptuous portraits, impressionistic landscapes and idyllic scenes of leisure against a backdrop of Tangier, St Jean de Luz, Palm Springs and the Venice Lido. Be whisked away to Switzerland, Spain, Ireland and Italy, as well as to cities such as Glasgow, Seville, Monte Carlo and New York. From the highly finished to the swift Impressionist sketch and a uniquely personal style, the range of subjects on show is staggering.

Move through the exhibition to experience the glamour of a lost era, with visits to the races, tennis matches and the golf course or simply relaxing on warm days with Lavery’s family and friends. With 90 magnificent artworks to explore, Lavery on Location brings together an array of his most notable paintings along with many works from private collections not usually seen by the public. You will be able to discover nearly 20 paintings exclusively on display in Edinburgh. Immerse yourself in beautiful seascapes of Tangier from the Ulster Museum, as well as spectacular portraits such as Idonia in Morocco from Glasgow Museums and Hazel in Black and Gold from the Laing Art Gallery.

Themed rooms will allow visitors to immerse themselves in Lavery’s oil sketches for the Glasgow International Exhibition of 1888, where he had his big break and was commissioned to paint the State Visit of Her Majesty, Queen Victoria. Then visitors can journey through Lavery’s travels in North Africa, with mesmerising paintings of snake charmers and camps on his adventures to Fez. For over twenty years, his villa in Tangier, surrounded by beautiful gardens, would become a winter retreat. Then experience Lavery’s time as an Official War Artist with scenes in hospitals, submarine pens and air raids during World War I. Lavery’s constant devotion to recording everyday life allows us to step inside a bygone era, capturing leisure activities such as sport, sunbathing and sight-seeing with the artist’s friends and family.

Born in Belfast, where his father ran a small wine and spirits shop in North Queen Street, Lavery was orphaned at the age of three, and moved to his uncle’s farm at Moira before being sent as a ten-year-old to a distant relative in Saltcoats, Ayrshire. He first ran away to Glasgow at the age of 15, and went on to take early morning and evening drawing lessons at the Haldane Academy, completing his training at the Académie Julian in Paris.

Along with a number of his fellow Scottish students Lavery worked at the colony of Grez-sur-Loing, near Fontainebleau, which will be the focus of the first room of the exhibition. Then, back in Scotland in 1885 he became one of the leaders of the much-loved group of artists known as the Glasgow Boys. The Glasgow Boys rebelled against the stuffy Edinburgh-based art establishment and challenged the Academy’s emphasis on historical painting. Instead, their subjects were drawn from everyday life, often painted outdoors.

Lavery quickly attained an international reputation in his early 30s when he received a gold medal at the Paris Salon, the most prestigious art exhibition in the world at the time. Enjoying great success after his move to London in 1896, Lavery combined his talents as a portrait painter with an interest in contemporary events and was later knighted in 1918.

Having travelled a great deal, always with his easel, Lavery recorded everything – from daylight raids on London during the First World War to tennis parties in the South of France. But despite his travels worldwide, Lavery’s connections to Scotland and Ireland remained strong throughout his long career.

Senior Curator Prof. Frances Fowle said: ‘Lavery was a versatile painter who was equally at home in Scotland, North Africa and the French Riviera. His paintings offer, on the one hand, a nostalgic glimpse of a bygone era and, on the other, a modern world of sunshine and leisure. Technically he was a true impressionist, intent on capturing a particular moment or atmospheric effect – perhaps night falling on Tangier, or early morning light, dancing on the crest of a wave.’

Guest Curator Kenneth McConkey said: ‘In a career that spanned over sixty years, Lavery’s output was immense. He saw carthorses become ‘horse-power’, windjammers transform into steamers, and flying machines reborn as air liners. Against a backdrop of immense social and political change, in the land of his birth, he witnessed the first cracks in the British Imperial entablature. Visual reporting skills, perfected in Scotland, took him to extraordinary situations and while his works develop in fascinating ways, their basic premises – setting down what was before him – remained constant. The same remarkable hand that brought us a Dutch Cocoa House in 1888 takes us to a tea-table in Palm Springs in 1938.’

Director of the National Gallery of Ireland, Dr Caroline Campbell said: “I am thrilled to see An Irish Impressionist: Lavery on Location opening at the National Galleries of Scotland. This exhibition is a perfect partnership between the National Gallery of Ireland, National Galleries of Scotland and the Ulster Museum. It demonstrates the strength of our collections, our relationship and our commitment to working together. John Lavery was born in Belfast, spent his formative years in Ayrshire and Glasgow, was a regular visitor to Dublin, and spent his final years in Kilkenny, Ireland. This wonderful exhibition focuses on the people, locations and sensations that John Lavery encountered in a life rich in travel and experience and shows a new dimension to the work of this much-loved painter.”

This exhibition is organised by the National Gallery of Ireland, Dublin, in collaboration with National Museums NI and the National Galleries of Scotland.

Image: Sir John Lavery, On the Cliffs, 1911.
Photograph courtesy of the Richard Green Gallery, London


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