By 1898, relocating permanently from Glasgow to London became a business necessity, rather than an aesthetic choice, for Lavery. In the previous two years he had been camping out in Alfred East’s studio in Spencer Street, Westminster, while the landscape painter was away, and this temporary arrangement must come to an end. Should he wish, however, to work en plein air
the options were limited. There were the big central London parks, but these were often crowded and the more select Ranelagh Gardens with their tree-lined pond, quickly became a favourite sketching ground. It was but a short cab ride from his new establishment in Cromwell Place. Now part of the gardens at Royal Hospital, at the turn of the twentieth century it provided the setting for a long series of canvases in which a hammock slung between the trees symbolised summer’s ease for a number of different models. The present study coincides with the first of these and it is likely that Lavery’s German model, Mary Auras, posed for the girl.
Studying reflections the surface of the pond under the leafy shade on a summer’s day, the painter’s thoughts must inevitably have returned to his youthful impressions painted at Grez-sur-Loing, where figures often posed by the water’s edge. In the present instance, the hammock has yet to be unfurled and Lavery’s model, places her parasol by the side of her chair and her bonnet on the grass beside her. Then, aware of the artist’s presence, she looks round to observe him sketching.
Professor Kenneth McConkey