War at Sea

  • 1st December 2011 − 14th October 2012 | Scottish National Portrait Gallery

Aftermath: France 1919

In November 1918 Lavery gave a large group of his war paintings to the nation, much as his friend and fellow artist Sir William Orpen had done. He had been working unpaid for twenty months and was badly in need of a rest. In February he and his wife Hazel accepted an invitation to stay at the home of a friend in Tunisia.

At the same time a commission arrived from Lady Priscilla Norman, the formidable chairman of the Women's Work Committee at the Imperial War Museum. She wanted Lavery to record the work of women in the Red Cross and other organisations in France before they were disbanded. He refused to be pressured into going to France before his holiday, as Lady Norman wished; he would undertake her commission on his return in two months’ time, informing her, ‘by the 9th of May I shall be in Le Havre ready to begin work at once.’

Lavery completed twelve paintings of women's war work in Le Havre, Dieppe, Rouen, Le Touquet, Etaples and Boulogne, selling them to the Committee for 1,250 guineas - half his normal price.