After Lavery's return to Glasgow in 1885, renderings of the urban middle class replaced his earlier interest in peasant subject-matter. Lavery became one of the leaders of the Glasgow boys, a group of young painters committed to the ideals of naturalism. He obtained a sitting from the Queen and thereafter his position as the premier young portraitist of his generation was assured. Lavery moved to London in 1896. He became vice-president of the International Society, which was set up in 1897 to hold regular international exhibitions in London, under the successive presidencies of Whistler and Rodin.
Lavery's work was favoured in Paris, Rome and Berlin rather than in London. He exhibited at all the major European salons and secessions.
When World War I broke out Lavery began recording scenes at military camps, naval bases and munitions factories. He was appointed Official War Artist in 1917, assigned to the Royal Navy; one of his duties was to paint the surrender of the German Fleet at Rosyth (Fife) in 1918. At the end of the war Lavery became involved in Irish affairs..
Lavery travelled widely between World War I and World War II, producing many ‘portrait interiors' of the rich and famous, caught in a mood of elegant relaxation. He also painted horse-racing, swimming-pool and casino subjects. At the outbreak of World War II, he retreated to Kilkenny.
W. Shaw-Sparrow: John Lavery and his Work (London, 1911)
Sir John Lavery R.A. 1856–1941 (exh. cat. by K. McConkey, Edinburgh, F. A. Soc.; London, F. A. Soc.; Belfast, Ulster Mus.; Dublin, N.G.; 1984–5)
K. McConkey: Sir John Lavery: Portrait of an Artist (Belfast, 1987)
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