John Lavery 1856-1941


Dr. Conrad Ackner, to whom this canvas was given by the artist; 

Thence by descent 

Lavery, the son of a publican, was orphaned at the age of three and was brought up by relatives, initially in the north of Ireland and then in Ayrshire. He became an apprentice re-toucher to a Glasgow photographer and attended the Haldane Academy, Glasgow, in the 1870s. After spending a winter term at Heatherley's School of Art, London, he moved in 1881 to Paris where he studied at the Académie-Julian. At this time he was influenced by Jules Bastien-Lepage and painted in a plein-air naturalist style ('Under the Cherry Tree', 1884; Belfast, Ulster Mus.), working at the village of Grez-sur-Loing.

After Lavery's return to Glasgow in 1885, renderings of the urban middle class replaced his earlier interest in peasant subject matter. With such important works as the 'Tennis Party' (1885; Aberdeen, A.G..) Lavery became one of the leaders of the Glasgow Boys, a group of young painters committed to the ideals of naturalism. In 1888, the year of Queen Victoria's Jubilee, Lavery was selected to depict the Queen's visit to the International Exhibition in Glasgow (1888; Aberdeen, A.G.). He obtained a sitting from the Queen and thereafter his position as the premier young portraitist of his generation was assured. During these years he became friendly with Whistler; Lavery's full-length figure-pieces, such as Mrs Fitzroy Bell (1894; Glasgow, A.G. & Mus;), have parallels with those of Whistler. Lavery moved to London in 1896. He became vice-president of the International Society, which was set up in 1897 to hold regular international exhibitions in London, under successive presidencies of Whistler and Rodin.

Lavery exhibited at all the major European salons and successions and in the early 20th century two of his paintings, 'Father and Daughter' (1898) and 'Spring' (1904; both Paris, Musée D'Orsay), were acquired for the Louvre. During these years he travelled widely and established a studio at Tangier. He was honoured with a one-man exhibition at the Venice Biennale in 1910 and it was only after this that he was elected ARA (1911). He exhibited on his return there an imposing canvas entitled 'The Amazon' (Belfast, Ulster Mus.) He was elected RA in 1921.

In 1910 he married Hazel Martyn Trudeau, the daughter of a Chicago industrialist. Lady Lavery became a central figure in London society and Lavery often claimed his success as a portraitist was in part due to her social accomplishments.

When World War I broke out, Lavery began recording scenes at military camps, naval bases and munitions factories. He was appointed Official War Artist in 1917, assigned to the Royal Navy. Lavery travelled widely between World War I and World War II, producing many 'portrait interiors' of the rich and famous, caught in a mood of elegant relaxation.

Lennoxlove is an historic 14th Century house lying a mile south of Haddington. Originally known as Lethington, it was the home of William Maitland (1525-73), Mary Queen of Scots's Secretary of State, and remained in the family until after the death of John Maitland, the 1st Duke of Lauderdale (1616-82). The name Lennoxlove was after Frances Stuart, Duchess of Lennox, who bought the house c. 1702. The house passed to her nephew, Lord Blantyre. Gilbert Burns (1760 - 1827), brother of the poet, became factor here in 1804. The 12th Lord Blantyre died without male heirs (1900) and the house passed to his daughter and her husband Sir David Baird of Newbyth, a descendent of the noted soldier of the same name. In 1912, their son employed architect Sir Robert Lorimer to undertake a major restoration. Lennoxlove is now owned by the Duke of Hamilton, the 14th Duke having purchased the house in 1945 from the Baird family.

The room depicted in the painting is the Great Hall at Lennoxlove House, and depicts Lady Lavery as one of the figures sitting in the window. The Duke of Hamilton has confirmed that the table in the painting is identical to one still in the house and the wooden backed chairs in the window recess are very similar to those currently in the Great Hall today. The artist gave this canvas to Dr. Conrad Ackner who was his dentist. Dr. Ackner owned a number of paintings by Lavery, including a portrait of himself working in his dental surgery.