Lavery is one of the most well known and respected artists of the modern British era. The major source of information on his life and work is his autobiography The Life of a Painter. He achieved fantastic success during his lifetime both critically and socially. In recent years his work has reached enormous prices, with a painting measuring just 10 x 14 inches more than £120,000 in a recent provincial auction.
He was a painter of portraits, interiors, townscapes, swimming pools and landscapes. He was born in Belfast and attended evening classes at the Haldene Academy of Art circa 1875, at Heatherly’s Art School in 1879 and then more importantly in Paris at the Académie Julian where the influence of the French artists was learned. In 1883 he painted at Grez-sur-Loing with Kennedy and other important British artists. In 1885 he settled in Glasgow. He travelled to Morocco (where he established a second home in 1903) and Madrid, and in 1896 moved his household to London. He exhibited widely, starting with the Glasgow Institute in 1880, the Royal Scottish Academy in the following year, and the Paris Salon in 1883. He made his debut at the Royal Academy in London in 1886 and at the New English Art Club and the Royal Society of British Artists in 1887, and in 1890 showed with the Glasgow artists at the influential Grosvenor Gallery. In 1891 his first one-man show was held at the Goupil Gallery and in 1898 he was a co-founder with Whistler of the International Society, serving as Vice-President until 1908. Appointed an Official War Artist in 1917, he was knighted in 1918. His works are represented in numerous important public collections, with notable examples in the Tate Gallery and the Hugh Lane Municipal Gallery of Modern Art, Dublin. He died at Kilmaganny, County Kilkenny, Ireland, on 10th January 1941. A number of biographies have been published on Lavery, and his memoirs were published in the year before his death.