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Sir John Lavery, R.A., R.S.A., R.H.A. (1856-1941)
Sir John Lavery, R.A., R.S.A., R.H.A. (1856-1941)
Sir John Lavery, R.A., R.S.A., R.H.A. (1856-1941)
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Sir John Lavery, R.A., R.S.A., R.H.A. (1856-1941)

The Terrace, Cap d'Ail

Sir John Lavery, R.A., R.S.A., R.H.A. (1856-1941)
The Terrace, Cap d'Ail
signed 'J Lavery' (lower left), signed again, inscribed and dated 'THE TERRACE. CAP D'AIL/BY/JOHN LAVERY/.1921' (on the reverse)
oil on canvas
25 x 30 ¼ in. (63.5 x 76.8 cm.)
Painted in 1921.
There is a study for The Amazon, circa 1910 on the reverse.
Acquired directly from the artist by the previous owner in 1925.
Their sale; Phillips, London, 16 June 1987, lot 53, where acquired for the present collection.
K. McConkey, Sir John Lavery, Edinburgh, 1993, pp. 144, 226, pl. 184.
K. McConkey, John Lavery, A Painter and his World, Edinburgh, 2010, pp. 150, 152, illustrated.
London, Alpine Club, Pictures of Morocco, The Riviera and other Scenes by Sir John Lavery, R.A., with Portrait and Child Studies by Lady Lavery, 1921, no. 8.

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Nathaniel Nicholson
Nathaniel Nicholson Associate Director, Specialist

Lot Essay

On 10 February 1921, the Laverys left London for the Riviera, and a belated winter holiday (they would have travelled earlier, but builders were adding an extension to their home at 5 Cromwell Place, London. Initially they hoped to remain in France until the beginning of May, but this was brought forward to late April). Checking-in at the stylish Eden-Grand Hotel, at Cap d’Ail, the weather, as the artist reported to his daughter, Eileen, was ‘simply divine’ and ‘the place, dreamland’, outshining ‘the basking days of Tangier’ (letters dated 6 and 21 March 1921, private correspondence). In the previous winter, the artist had made his last visit to the Moroccan city and after an extended tour, had taken the decision to sell his house there. For him, the côte d’azur presented new and more interesting possibilities.

Subdued during the Great War, the Riviera was poised for revival. A long-time favourite with wealthy British hivernants and more recent ‘White’ Russian refugees, it had attracted Impressionist and Fauve painters such as Monet, Renoir, Matisse and Derain in the middle years of the Third Republic. And now, with the reawakening of the grand hotels and the development of more luxurious modes of travel, rail passengers - Scott Fitzgerald’s rich ‘playboy’ American visitors - could arrive in style at the fashionable watering-holes of Monte Carlo, Nice and Cannes (the following year would for instance, see the introduction of the famous ‘train bleu’). At the more select resort of Cap d’Ail, Lavery found much to admire (the Laverys had of course visited Nice in December 1913, en route to Tangier, and they were already well-aware of its growing appeal). Secluded bays and charming nearby coastal towns such as Beaulieu and Villefranche, fringed the southern slopes of the Alpes Maritimes, and looked onto the azure depths of the Mediterranean. With an exhibition pending, he was however, ‘getting on with some canvases of sunshine’, for this was a ‘busman’s holiday’. The steep pathway up to Eze, Beaulieu viewed from Cap Ferrat, the gardens of Ralph Wormeley Curtis and Lisa Colt Curtis’s showcase Villa Sylvia, and the caves in the blue bay known as ‘La Mala’, all provided subjects. The richness and variety of these works give the sense of someone turning away from the grim realities of the war years which, for the artist working in northern France, over-ran into the summer of 1919. (Although his role as Official War Artist had come to an end, Lavery received a special commission in 1919 to visit, and record the field hospitals and ordnance depots of the Western Front, including the huge temporary cemetery at Étaples).

One of the most remarkable pictures produced during the whole intense Riviera interlude was The Terrace, Cap d’Ail – not simply for its portrayal of the grande luxe of a fine hotel, but for its vibrant colour and striking composition. London balconies had afforded Whistler and Monet aerial views of the metropolis at the turn of the century, but here, the splendid terrace overlooking the matchless bay, with Beaulieu and Cap Ferrat in the distance and Hazel Lavery perusing a magazine, presented Lavery with much richer fare. They talked about renting a villa and returning the following winter for a much longer period – a plan that the painter was unable to realize when in the autumn of 1921, the ceasefire in Ireland brought Michael Collins and the other Irish leaders to London (McConkey, 2010, pp. 152-157). Nevertheless, at that moment in March, looking from his balcony and writing to Eileen, he could conclude: ‘You cannot imagine how beautiful the landscapes, gardens, villas and sea are – pictures at every turn’ (letter to Eileen Lavery, dated 6 March 1921, private correspondence).

Before he left London there had been overtures from the Chenil Gallery, in Chelsea, to hold his next exhibition in the larger premises of the Alpine Club off Conduit Street in London’s West End, which they would hire for the occasion (in the end this would turn into a joint show with Hazel’s drawings and paintings). The show was a great success. Applauded by critics for ‘the absolute truth of the colour impression that makes each of his landscapes so homogeneous and complete’, it was accompanied by a catalogue introduced by Lavery’s pupil, Winston Churchill (P.G. Konody, ‘Art and Artists, Sir John and Lady Lavery’, The Observer, 23 October 1921, p. 10). In his much-quoted foreword to the accompanying catalogue Churchill noted that Lavery, ‘… shows us sunlight in all its variety … gay and pellucid and pleasurable on the Riviera … We are presented with the true integrity of an effect. And this flash is expressed in brilliant and beautiful colour with the ease of long mastery’ (W.S. Churchill, ‘Foreword’, Pictures of Morocco, the Riviera and other scenes etc., London, Alpine Club, 1921, pp. 3-4. For fuller reference see McConkey, 2010, p. 152).

There was recent first-hand experience of working with his master in these words. And the whole ‘gay and pellucid and pleasurable’ Riviera experience was summed up in that perfect day on the hotel balcony overlooking the garden forecourt in The Terrace, Cap d’Ail.

Professor Kenneth McConkey

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