Temporarily freed from war duties at the Naval bases in Scotland, Lavery renewed his friendship with his patron, Sir Patrick Ford, Solicitor General for Scotland. Prior to the war, Ford had purchased a number of important works by the painter such as Japanese Switzerland (private collection). There followed in 1919 a series of invitations to weekend parties at Westerdunes, Ford's house at North Berwick, a few miles south-east of Edinburgh. Lavery's work on these occasions - he did not regard them as opportunities for recreation - focused upon garden parties, views of the golf course and the beach at Tyninghame. He also visited his old friend, painter Patrick William Adam, who lived nearby at Ardilea.
The present oil sketch, depicting the open air swimming pool at North Berwick, illustrates a phenomenon which was common in coastal towns in the late 19th Century, when open air bathing was seen as synonymous with good health. The visit to North Berwick pool sparked a new area of subject matter for the painter. During the twenties he painted Chiswick Baths and the People's Pool at Palm Springs and took great enjoyment in the spectacle of communal swimming. Some of that pleasure is evident in this rapid sketch. We may assume from the notation of the two women in the foreground that this is a blustery day on the Scottish coast. It may be slightly cold for the time of year, and given the number of spectators, there may be a gala in progress. The handling is swift and forceful and betrays the verve of a painter at the height of his powers, massing the composition with great speed and jotting in the detail in the most economic fashion.
We are very grateful to Professor Kenneth McConkey for providing the catalogue entry for lots 38-9.