Wednesday, August 18, 2010

The Hugh Lane Gallery - Sir John Lavery: Passion and Politics

The following review was written by Claire Bradley.

The Hugh Lane Gallery has always had strong associations with Ireland as a nation, with its emphasis on modern/Irish art, and the dispute that raged for decades over Hugh Lane's bequest of paintings offered to the State if they had a suitable place to display them, so it is appropriate that here they choose to commemorate one of our greatest artists, John Lavery. Lavery was born in Belfast, orphaned as a child and never actually lived in Ireland but had a strong affinity and visited countless times. He was exceptionally prolific and his work is known world wide. This exhibition focuses on his politics and passions. With his second wife, Hazel, the two opened the doors of their London home to many Irish politicians, and during the Treaty negotiations, allowed both sides to meet informally there.

Lavery painted all the signatories of the Treaty and this exhibition brings the paintings together for the first time. Several of them belong already to the Hugh Lane Gallery through a bequest made in Lady Lavery's name on her death in 1935. Others belong to the National Gallery, the Ulster Museum and there are some other pieces from smaller galleries and private collections. Three standout paintings for me were: the massive painting of the trial of Roger Casement, on loan from the UK Government Collection; Lady Lavery as Kathleen NĂ­ Houlihan, which graced our banknotes until 1977. This painting is more sensual and youthful on canvas than it ever was on money! Finally, a painting of Michael Collins lying in state is exceptionally poignant and that Lavery (and his wife) were Collins' close friends is evident in it. Collins was carrying a letter from Hazel Lavery when he was shot.

The "passion" side of the exhibition is largely made up with paintings of Lady Lavery, his muse. She herself was an artist and a couple of her own works are included. Accompanying the paintings, there is a small collection of memorabilia, mainly letters to and from the Laverys.

One small bone of contention, one painting is on view downstairs and everything else upstairs. Signage is good but it would be better all on one level. Those with mobility issues should note that chairs were almost non-existent.

Worth a look, and free, the exhibition runs until 31st October.

1 comment:

  1. Concur with Lavery reviewer!