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Rare Sir John Lavery works go up for sale

Culture

Rare Sir John Lavery works go up for sale

Dreweatts is to present a selection of works by one of the most important Irish artists in history, Sir John Lavery RA, SA, RHA.

They include the original on-the-spot sketch for one of the most significant events for Ireland, The Hearing of the Appeal of Sir Roger Casement, which has never been seen publicly before.

The high-profile case took place in 1916 in the High Court. It saw detailed arguments regarding Roger casement’s conviction for treason. The witness box, usually empty during appeal cases, was occupied by a someone whose eyes frequently darted around the tedium of the court proceedings, this was the celebrated Irish artist Sir John Lavery.

Animated and obviously attentive and hidden by the side of the witness box were his painting materials and the oil sketch Dreweatts is now offering. As a visual witness statement, its power is immense and the work has never been seen publicly before. It is accompanied by two portraits from the family of the presiding judge in the appeal, Sir Charles Darling, as well as two other works from different private sources, The Lieutenant John Clive Darling and a portrait of his mother, Lady Darling.

The former is a character study of a confident young officer, while the latter, an evocation from an earlier photograph of Mary Caroline Darling, daughter of General WWH Greathed, a distinguished Army engineer. Two other paintings from different sources in the same sale are an atmospheric view from Lavery’s house at Tangier overlooking the Straits of Gibraltar and a vivid oil sketch for his celebrated portrait of Mrs Roger Plowden and Humphrey of 1897.

The principal work on offer is the study for Lavery’s grand painting of The Court of Criminal Appeal London, 1916 (Government Art Collection), which is an encapsulation of the high drama surrounding the controversial court case of Roger Casement CMG (1864-1916), who was hung for his participation in the Irish Nationalist revolt in Dublin in 1916. Casement was an Irish-born high-profile diplomat, working for the British Foreign Office, who became well-known for his humanitarian interests (he was nicknamed the ‘father of twentieth-century human rights investigations’).

Jennie Fisher, Co-Head of Dreweatts Modern and Contemporary Art:

“We are thrilled to be able to offer a cross-section of works demonstrating the breadth and range of Lavery’s work from an evocative example of his plein air landscape painting, to society portraits, through to a rare and important study for one of his most important historical commissions. The preparatory study of The Hearing of the Appeal of Sir Roger Casement is undoubtedly the highlight of the group and significant not only for its superb draughtsmanship, but for its portrayal of a hugely important moment in Anglo-Irish history”.

The artist is currently the subject of a major touring exhibition – Lavery on Location – organized by the National Gallery of Ireland, currently in the Ulster Museum and ending in the National Gallery of Scotland’s Edinburgh Festival Exhibition. Its guest curator, Professor Kenneth McConkey has kindly researched all five of the current Dreweatts works.

Tthe paintings will be offered in Dreweatts Modern and Contemporary Art sale on March 13, 2024.

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