War at Sea

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

The Firth of Forth

Armed with the necessary permits from the Chief Naval Censor, Lavery spent September 1917 painting the ports and harbours on the Forth, with the Forth Railway Bridge, the statuesque shapes of the Grand Fleet, and the ever-changing skies of the east coast as a backdrop. His activities attracted the attention of local children and the police, who suspected him of being a spy.

From the French windows of St Margaret's House, then the official residence of the Commander-in-Chief, Coast of Scotland, and sited high on the cliffs of North Queensferry, Lavery had a fine view of Rosyth Naval Base with battleships at anchor in the Forth. Nearby was North Queensferry Air Station, which became the subject of one of his most striking war pictures. Together with paintings of South Queensferry, Granton Harbour and Leith, Lavery created an atmospheric spectacle of an entire region absorbed in wartime naval activity.

Next: East Fortune