Details & Cataloguing

A Living Legacy: Irish Art from the Collection of Brian P. Burns


Sir John Lavery, R.A., R.H.A., R.S.A.
to be sold with Walter Shaw-Sparrow's biography, John Lavery and his Work, London (1912)
Quantity: 2
signed and dated l.r.: J Lavery 05; also indistinctly signed and inscribed with the artist's address on a label attached to the stretcher
oil on canvas
75.5 by 56cm., 29¾ by 22in.
Read Condition Report Read Condition Report


Theo Waddington Fine Art, London, 1999


London, New Gallery, Summer Exhibition, 1905;
Venice, Biennale, Esposizione Internazionale d’Arte, 1910, no.19;
Dundee, Victoria Art Galleries, Albert Institute, Exhibition of Paintings by Sir John Lavery, Kt, RA, RSA, 1936, no.13;
Washington, John F. Kennedy Center, Irish Paintings from the Collection of Brian P. Burns, 13 - 28 May 2000, illustrated p.49


‘The New Gallery’, The Scotsman, 26 April 1905, p.9;
‘The New Gallery’, Dundee Courier, 27 April 1905, p.6;     
Walter Shaw Sparrow, John Lavery and his Work, n.d., [1912] (Kegan Paul, Trubner, Trench & Co), illustrated p.52, p.139, 186, 192;
Adele Dalsimer and Vera Kreilkamp, 'Introduction', Irish Paintings from the Collection of Brian P. Burns, 2000, (exh. cat., John F Kennedy Center, Washington), illustrated p.49

Catalogue Note

Despite the fact that Lavery was pigeon-holed as a painter of fashionable women in the early years of the twentieth century, he was also keenly sensitive to children. Around 1905, when the present picture was produced, he also painted Diana Janet Darling, the daughter of Mr Justice Darling, Master Hoskins, Miss Stella Donner, Master Kenneth Clark and the infant, Archibald BD Maconochie. Studies of his own daughter, Eileen, now entering her teens, kept him ever in touch with the young, as did the request to paint the eldest son of David Croal Thomson (1855-1930), the distinguished Scots art dealer.

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

A Living Legacy: Irish Art from the Collection of Brian P. Burns