The highlight of the National Gallery of Ireland’s autumn-winter programme is Lavery On Location, which recently opened and will run to 14 January 2024. This is the first major monographic exhibition devoted to this modern Irish master in three decades. This new ‘must-visit’ exhibition includes more than 70 paintings from public and private collections, features a number of never-before-seen works, and has been made possible with the support of Arthur Cox
John Lavery’s work is a firm favourite globally, with particularly passionate audiences in Ireland, Northern Ireland and Scotland, where this show will visit. The popular description of Lavery as a portrait painter, however, reflects only one dimension of his work. Throughout his long career, most of Lavery’s solo exhibitions featured works related to his travels across Europe, North Africa and even North America. He was drawn to paint the people and scenery around him wherever he went. Whether he was abroad for business or leisure, Lavery never travelled without his painting kit – sometimes a small ‘pochade’ box, or on another occasions, a larger collapsible easel designed specifically for 25 x 30-inch canvases.
Born in Belfast in 1856, John Lavery studied art in Glasgow, London and Paris. By the early 1880s he had established himself as an internationally renowned painter. He was the only Irishman to receive the Freedom of both Dublin and Belfast in the inter-war period.
While not exclusively devoted to the notion of Lavery as artist-traveller, the exhibition focuses on some of the key locations depicted in Lavery’s art, from Scotland to Palm Springs, Spain to Switzerland. Highlights include the works he produced at Grez-sur Loing – an historic village popular with American, Irish, British, Scandinavian and Japanese artists– and Tangier, a place that had attracted painters including Eugène Delacroix (1798-1863) and Henri Matisse (1869-1954). In Grez, Lavery enjoyed what he referred to as his ‘happiest days in France’, while Tangier gave him many opportunities to reassess the conventional tropes of Orientalism. A Garden in France (1898), recently acquired by the National Gallery of Ireland, will be a highlight of the show.
The exhibition additionally includes on-the-spot studies of places and people he made in Switzerland, Spain, Ireland and Italy, while cities from Glasgow to London, Venice to Cannes and New York are also represented. Such was the richness and variety of Lavery’s work that Winston Churchill concluded that his artistic mentor, was a ‘plein-airiste if ever there was one’.
Head Curator at the National Gallery of Ireland and co-curator of the exhibition, Dr Brendan Rooney commented: This exhibition provides a wonderful opportunity to showcase the remarkable breadth of Lavery’s subject. Well-travelled, curious and social, he felt compelled to record both the locations he visited and the people with whom he experienced those places. The works he produced on his travels, from France and Morocco to the United States, are alive with colour and movement.
Geoff Moore, Managing Partner of Arthur Cox said: ;Our relationship with the arts has evolved over many years. Art can sustain and inspire communities, and we hope this partnership with the National Gallery of Ireland will help the Gallery further widen the reach of its educational programmes and special projects, making art accessible for all. We are particularly pleased to support Lavery. On Location, bringing together important works reflecting the artist’s travels and underlining his reputation as one of the most important Irish artists of the twentieth century.’
The exhibition is accompanied by a 224-page full colour publication, which is written by Professor Kenneth McConkey and Dr Brendan Rooney. It is available from the National Gallery of Ireland Shop and via Argosy in Ireland. See shop.nationalgallery.ie for further information.
Tickets for Lavery. On Location can be purchased online, starting from €5. A range of ticket concessions will also be available when visiting the exhibition on select days.
This landmark exhibition is curated by Professor Kenneth McConkey, Emeritus Professor of Art History at the University of Northumbria and Dr Brendan Rooney, Head Curator and Curator of Irish Art at the National Gallery of Ireland.
About John Lavery (1856 – 1941)
The son of a wine and spirit merchant, Lavery spent his early years in his native Belfast, but moved to Scotland when he was orphaned at the age of three. Having lived with relatives at various locations, he took a job with a photographer in Glasgow and began attending the Haldane Academy of Art. He subsequently moved to London, and in turn to Paris to continue his studies, enrolling at the fêted Académie Julian. From Paris he travelled to the artists’ colony at Grez-sur-Loing.
Lavery was awarded a knighthood in 1918 and received the freedom of both Belfast (1930) and Dublin (1935). Following the death of Hazel in 1937 he travelled to California. He died in Rossannagh, Co. Kilkenny in 1941.