‘Highlights From the Scottish School’

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In a most engaging article on the Sotheby’s auction at Gleneagles, Scotland, Jay Akasie observes that John Lavery’s Moroccan period has many striking resonances with works by Winston Churchill [Arts & Letters, “Highlights From the Scottish School,” August 19, 2008]. He quotes Sotheby’s André Zlattinger as wondering if they might have been acquainted.

Indeed they were. In his memoirs, Churchill wrote how, between assignments during his initial term as First Lord of the Admiralty, the painter’s second wife, Hazel, taught him how to paint and to be audacious:

“… wollop into the blue and the white, frantic flourish on the palette — clean no longer — and then several large, fierce strokes and slashes of blue on the absolutely cowering canvas. Anyone could see that it could not hit back. … The canvas grinned in helplessness before me. The spell was broken. … I seized the largest brush and fell upon victim with berserk fury. I have never felt any awe of a canvas since.”

The relationship was also pivotal in bringing about the Anglo-Irish Settlement of 1921. As Oliver St. John Gogarty writes in his memoir, “As I Was Walking Down Sackville Street,” the treaty granting independence to southern Ireland was “effectively negotiated and signed in Lavery’s Kensington studio.”

When the Ratification of the Treaty was being debated in the House of Lords, Lavery painted the scene as the chamber voted approval by a majority of just one, with Hazel sitting beside Winston in the visitor’s gallery. This was the first time a debate of the House was ever painted.



The Harry McKillop Irish Spirit Award

Dublin, Ireland

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