Having studied in Edinburgh, D.C. Thomson became director of the firm of Goupil & Co in London in 1885. At this point he was already working as a sub-editor on The Art Journal, eventually serving as its editor up until 1902. He actively supported new developments in British painting, giving Lavery his first solo exhibition in 1891. In 1898, he left Goupil to become business partner to Lockett Agnew, who had then taken the reins of the family firm of Thomas Agnew. It was thus that Lockett Halton Croal Thomson (1898-1990) acquired his Christian name. When he was 20, Lockett worked for his father, establishing the new family dealership at ‘Barbizon House’ in Henrietta Street, London, and when his father died, succeeded him as manager. He ran the company until the outbreak of the Second World War.
Lavery’s treatment of the seven-year-old Lockett, with its echoes of Whistler, was undoubtedly dictated in some measure by the boy’s parents, who must have demanded that he be shown wearing a kilt, and revealing the golden locks of a modern Bonnie Prince Charlie. Shaw Sparrow found ‘mischief’ and ‘a secret new plot against window panes’ in the boy’s expression, leading him to conclude that:
If mothers want their lads to look “sweet” in a picture, they should not go to John Lavery, who would be quite happy in a wood with a catapult and half a dozen flower pots. His boy portraits tell me so at any rate, and I should like to be with him.
Scottish identity was consonant with this, and clearly important to the Thomsons. When, in 1911, he heard from the sitter’s father that the picture had returned safely from the Venice Biennale to the family collection, Lavery replied, ‘I am glad the youthful Highland Chieftian (sic) is safely home again and in such good company’.
Professor Kenneth McConkey
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