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)

Hounslow

Details
SIR JOHN LAVERY, R.A., R.S.A., R.H.A. (1856-1941)
Hounslow
signed 'J. Lavery' (lower left), signed again and dedicated 'To/DR GINNER/WITH MANY COMPLIMENTS./FROM JOHN LAVERY.' (lower right), signed again, inscribed and dated 'HOUNDSLOW/AUGUST - 1917./BY/JOHN LAVERY/.' (on the reverse)
oil on canvas
25 x 30 in. (63.5 x 76.2 cm.)
Painted in August 1917.
Provenance
A gift from the artist to Dr Ginner, and by descent to the previous owner.
Acquired from the above by the present owner.
Special notice

This lot has been imported from outside of the UK for sale and placed under the Temporary Admission regime. Import VAT is payable at 5% on the hammer price. VAT at 20% will be added to the buyer’s premium but will not be shown separately on our invoice.

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Elizabeth Comba
Elizabeth Comba Specialist

Lot Essay

When in August 1917 John Lavery received his joint Naval and Military Permit enabling him to visit ordnance factories, naval dockyards and military installations, he immediately set to work, motoring out to Hounslow airfield in west London. The present canvas is, therefore, a rediscovery, of one of the artist’s first paintings as an Official War Artist.

Originally a cavalry barracks on Hounslow Heath, it had been used to train flying officers since 1910. Initially acting at first as the base for airships, it also flew Bristol Scout biplanes early in the war. By November 1917, it had received a squadron of newer Sopwith SE5A (Scout Experimental 5 A) aircraft – three of which are seen on the airfield in the present picture, with another two up in the clouds. These planes and the gallant officers who flew them were London’s first line of defence during the Zeppelin air-raids seen from the artist’s house in Cromwell Place and depicted in Daylight Raid from My Studio Window, 7 July 1917.

Since the outbreak of hostilities, three years earlier, Lavery had been working towards this end, but had been expressly forbidden from travelling to northern France. In 1914, returning from Ireland, he had nevertheless, been one of the first artists to record the immediate effects of war when Green Park in central London was converted into an army camp. Thereafter, through the good offices of Lord Derby, he began petitioning the government to implement a scheme enabling artists to record all aspects of the conflict. It was only when the Canadian government started to employ the likes of Augustus John, Alfred Munnings and Laura Knight to document the contributions of its troops to the war effort, that Lords Beaverbrook and Derby were able to bring the idea to fruition. So, immediately he received his permit, Lavery set off for airfields around London, at Hounslow and Hendon, before he embarked on a whistlestop tour - travelling north to Edinburgh then across to Ireland via Stranraer, and back to Glasgow, before arriving in Newcastle upon Tyne in October 1917. There, on the riverbank, he painted the Breaking-up of the HMS Illustrious so that steel from the old vessel could be recycled to supply the ordnance sheds at Elswick. Further sorties in mid-winter would take Lavery to Scapa Flow and on other occasions, in the new year he would record the newly arrived American troops embarking for the Western Front at Southampton, while at Dover, on the quayside and in the railway station, he observed the transport of wounded from the Western Front.

In those early weeks, however, it seems that when not on the move, the restless sixty-one- year-old painter was at his portable easel, specifically designed to take 25 x 30inch canvases. Scenes such as that at Hounslow were often fast-moving. Although much of his production would eventually reside in what became the Imperial War Museum, many war works were retained, since the exact terms of his appointment were never specified.

In the present instance, the scene at Hounslow aerodrome was given to Lavery’s friend, Dr Ginner, in circumstances that remain obscure. Ernest M Ginner (1876-1963) was the son of a British chemist who had studied in England and France, before settling in Cannes where he practiced from around 1909. Throughout these months in 1917 the artist’s much-loved daughter, Eileen, suffered from bouts of tuberculosis, the concerns of which occupy a number of letters. However, since Ginner’s career places him in the south of France at this time, it seems much more likely that the canvas was a later gift for services rendered – perhaps at the end of the twenties, when the Laverys spent winters in Mougins and Cannes. At the time, Ginner was ‘on-call’ doctor at the famous Sunny Bank Hospital, and he never charged for consultations.

Swiftly sketched on a bright cloudy day on Hounslow Heath, were it not for the presence of Sopwith SE5As, the present landscape might simply record a typical day in England, in late summer.

We are very grateful to Professor Kenneth McConkey for preparing this catalogue entry.
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