Friend of James Abbott Whistler, born in Ireland, John Lavery (1856-1941) began in the group of Scottish Impressionists in Glasgow. Orphan, raised on a farm in Ulster, he was 25 when he came to Paris to study at the Julian Academy under the palette of William Bouguereau.
Over the years, John Lavery's brush will oscillate between a form of realism à la Bastien-Lepage, the influence of the Impressionists and the return to a certain academicism, driven by the social successes of his portraits.
If he appeared at the Salon of 1883 in Paris with a small canvas "The two fishermen" which hung not far from the "Bar des Folies Bergères" by Édouard Manet, John Lavery saw his career launched by the commission of a painting representing Queen Victoria's visit to Glasgow in 1884. Settled in London in the early 1890s, John Lavery joined the International Society of Sculptors, Painters and Gravers at the request of James Whistler, of which he was Vice-President.
John Lavery will be a war painter during the conflict of 1914-1918. Wounded during the attack of a Zeppelin on the Western front, he will return to London where he will paint many paintings of great evocative force.
In this painting, the crew of an airship watches over a troop convoy crossing the North Sea. The daring composition leaves all its place to the immensity of the liquid mass, reinforced by the placement of the horizon, at the very top of the canvas. The painter's point of view, as if hanging from the outside of the gondola, highlights the bravery of the aeronauts encased in their furry jackets... Another airship is parked in the background, with its silver surface reflecting the rays of a pale sun.
Delicate in the tones used as in their composition, the paintings of John Lavery will know a success with the high society that will not be denied, until his death, in Kilkenny, in his native Ireland, in 1941.
In his art history lectures, Fabrice Roy combines the past with the present, in a poetic and playful evocation of the French 19th century...