War at Sea

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

Sir John Lavery

Sir John Lavery (1856-1941) was born in Belfast. He moved to Ayrshire when he was ten and after training at art schools in Glasgow and Paris, he became associated with the group of up-and-coming artists known as The Glasgow Boys.

By the outbreak of the First World War in 1914 Lavery was already established as a very fashionable and successful portrait painter. His original intention was to record the Allies’ war effort on the Western Front. He discussed his official commission with the Department of Information in May 1917 intending to go out for six weeks. However, a visit to his doctor and the intervention of his wife led to a complete change of plan. Instead of travelling to northern France, Lavery was issued with a Special Naval and Military Permit and a roving brief to depict naval bases around Britain.

Despite some bureaucratic difficulties, he was able to choose his own itinerary and subject matter, visiting naval ports, shipyards, airfields and munitions factories in Scotland and on the south coast of England. In 1919, after the Armistice, he took on a final commission, recording women’s war work in France before the closure of their operations.

Next: The First World War