Sir John Lavery
Hyde Park Corner, 29th November 1934
Oil on canvas laid down on board: 24(h) x 20(w) in / 61(h) x 50.8(w) cm
Signed and titled lower left: HYDE PARK CORNER / 29th NOVEMBER/ 1934/ J Lavery
SIR JOHN LAVERY
Belfast 1856 - 1941 Kilmaganny, County Kilkenny
Hyde Park Corner, 29th November 1934 (The wedding of HRH Prince George, Duke of Kent and HRH Princess Marina of Greece and Denmark)
Signed and titled lower left: HYDE PARK CORNER /
29th NOVEMBER/ 1934/ J Lavery Oil on canvas board: 24 x 20 in / 61 x 50.8 cm Frame size: 29 ⅛ x 25 ¼ in / 74 x 64.1 cm
Jerome & Gabriella Kandell, Kandell Fabrics, New York, probably purchased in the early 1950s, then by descent from 1982;
Private collection, France, from the 1990s, then by descent
Glasgow, The Glasgow Art Club, 22nd February 1935-30th March 1935, no.3
London, Royal Academy of Arts, Summer Exhibition, 1935, no.552
Liverpool, Walker Art Gallery, Autumn Exhibition, 1935
Anon, ‘Art Interests: Glasgow Art Club’, The Scotsman, 26th February 1935, p.11
Royal Academy Illustrated, 1935, 1935, Walter Judd Ltd, p.67
Anon, ‘At the Royal Academy …’, Aberdeen Press and Journal, 4th May 1935, p.7
Movietone and Pathé films of the wedding of Princess Marina of Greece and Denmark and Prince George, Duke of Kent in November 1934 confirm that the day dawned dull and foggy. While there were even moments of drizzle, there was no dampening of jubilation as the happy couple returned to Buckingham Palace from Westminster Abbey, passing Hyde Park Corner. As Lavery’s atmospheric portrayal of the scene indicates, colourful Greek and Danish flags and Union Jacks hanging from the lampposts and from the top of the Wellington Arch broke through the gloom as the coach entered Constitution Hill. The moment was unique. Although both the artist and his wife were ailing that autumn, it was a great occasion that must be witnessed. The popular royal couple had ‘enshrined themselves in the hearts of millions.’ Cheering crowds followed them even after they reached Birmingham en route to their honeymoon at Himley Hall in Staffordshire, the country estate of William Ward, 3rd Earl of Dudley.
At Hyde Park Corner, it was a scene for which the artist was well-prepared. He had recorded the thoroughfare on at least four other occasions, two of which had been equally joyous. One had been that extraordinary day when the guns on the Western Front fell silent, and a second was the State Procession organized for the Prince of Wales in 1922 (figs 1 & 2).
Fig 1 John Lavery, Armistice Day, November 11th, 1918, Grosvenor Place, London, 1918, 76 x 64, Imperial War Museum, London
Fig 2 John Lavery, A State Procession — The King, the Prince of Wales, the Duke of York and Prince George, Hyde Park Corner, 21st June 1922, 1922, 63.5 x 76.2, Private Collection
A further occasion followed in 1925 when the artist returned to what Henry James referred to as the ‘beating heart of the great West End’, on a winter day to produce a vivid record of the flow of traffic (fig 3). Taking a cab or omnibus from Lavery’s home to the Royal Academy, meant negotiating this throng. His affection was that shared with Arthur Symons who found it impressive ‘for no reason in particular’, other than that the corner epitomized London for those recently arriving at Victoria Station.
Fig 3 John Lavery, Winter Sun, Hyde Park Corner, 1925, 63.5 x 76.2, Private Collection
All three, as in the present instance, use the Wellington Arch as an anchor point for the composition. Having been designed by Decimus Burton as an entrance to Hyde Park, the Arch was adopted as a national monument and originally surmounted by Wyatt’s huge statue of the Duke of Wellington. This was considered unsatisfactory and was removed when the Arch itself was moved to a new position facing down Constitution Hill. There it remained without a crowning sculpture until in 1912, Adrian Jones’s classical figure of Triumph riding a four horse quadriga was erected – as in the Lavery sequence. This transformed the otherwise undistinguished architecture at the corner. However, neither quadriga, nor traffic, brought the painter back to one of his favourite London locations in November 1934.
As the record of a royal occasion, the present work fits comfortably into a long sequence that began in 1888 when Lavery was commissioned to paint The State Visit of Queen Victoria to the International Exhibition, Glasgow, 1888, 1890 (Glasgow Museums). It ended in 1937 with Piccadilly, 12 May 1937, (Museum of London), a large picture of the coronation procession of King George VI passing the Royal Academy. In the intervening years Lavery had painted King George V on two occasions, in 1913 (National Portrait Gallery) and in 1929, as a special commission for The Illustrated London News. In addition to the marriage procession of the Princess Royal and the Earl of Harewood (Harewood House) on 28th February 1922, he also painted the presentation debutantes at Buckingham Palace (unlocated) in 1931.
Hyde Park Corner, 29th November 1934 was exhibited at the Glasgow Art Club in 1935 where Lavery, having been elected back in November 1881, was now one of its oldest members. At the time The Scotsman critic, who began his review by contrasting Lavery’s contribution with that of another veteran ‘Glasgow Boy’, David Gauld, declared that both were ‘landscapes’, with crowds ‘treated … as landscape’ in Lavery’s case. His picture possessed a ‘remarkable verve and dexterity.’ The great crowd is suggested by the merest articulation, and with a notable effect of perspective, the Royal carriage and procession in the foreground. The picture was then shown at the Royal Academy alongside his portrait of The RT. Hon. David Lloyd George, OM, MP, and in the Liverpool Autumn Exhibition in 1935. Swagger and speed of execution equates it with the earliest of Lavery’s studies. He who swiftly noted the scene when Queen Victoria addressed the assembled worthies at the Glasgow International Exhibition (Aberdeen Art Gallery) was still the man whose eye caught the passing cortège in 1934. Fifty years earlier Bastien-Lepage had advised him to carry a sketchbook and study figures in motion – ‘at first you will remember very little, but continue, and you will soon get complete action’. On a grey November day, as the Life Guards trotted past the Wellington Arch, this was just as true.
SIR JOHN LAVERY RA RSA RHA PRP NP IS
Belfast 1856 – 1941 Kilmaganny, County Kilkenny
It has been claimed that Sir John Lavery belonged to the Glasgow School, the Ulster School, the Irish School and the British School, indicating the versatility and wide-ranging appeal of his artistic accomplishments. His works are greatly admired for his development of the aesthetic value of the sketch, in which each touch of the brush is left undisguised to create a vibrant and atmospheric affect.
Born in Belfast, he was orphaned in infancy and brought up by an uncle near Moira, and later, another relative in Ayrshire. As a teenager, Lavery was apprenticed to a Glasgow photographer, and during the late 1870s, attended classes at the Haldane Academy in Glasgow. He then trained at Heatherleys in London and in 1881, settled in Paris, where he studied at the Académie Julian and Atelier Colarossi; during this period he was influenced by Jules Bastien-Lepage and painted in a plein-air and naturalist style.
Lavery returned to Glasgow in 1885 and became one of the leading members of the Glasgow School. He moved to London in 1896 and helped Whistler to found the International Society in 1898, of which he was a Vice-President until 1908. He was elected an Associate of the Royal Academy in 1911 and became a full Academician in 1921. He was appointed Official War Artist to the Royal Navy in 1917, and was knighted the following year. Lavery travelled extensively during his career, visiting Morocco, Italy, Spain, Germany and Holland, and these visits inspired many of his works. Following the death of his wife, Hazel, in 1935, Lavery set off for Hollywood with the idea of painting the ‘stars’. With the outbreak of the Second World War, he returned to Ireland and died at Kilmaganny in 1941.
 Numerous accounts appeared in the press of which the Western Times, 30th November 1934, p.16 is typical. It noted that the day dawned with a light fog, was generally overcast, with patches of drizzle, none of which deterred the massive cheering crowds.
 Lavery had just recovered from influenza at this point and his wife Hazel was, as the weeks passed, growing weaker. She died on 3rd January 1935; see Kenneth McConkey, John Lavery, A Painter and his World, 2010, Atelier Books, Edinburgh, pp.192-4.
 Western Times, 30th November 1934, p.16. Prince George, KG, KT, GCMG, GCVO (1902-1942) was the fourth son of King George V and Queen Mary. A military and civil service career preceded his engagement to Princess Marina of Greece and Denmark, when he was created Duke of Kent. He served in the RAF Training Corps during the Second World War, when the aircraft in which he was flying, crashed at Caithness in Scotland. Princess Marina (1906-1968) was, by birth, descended from the Greek, Danish and Russian royal families, and was first cousin of Prince Philip. Her early childhood was spent in Greece, but from the age of eleven she lived in Paris when the Greek royal family were forced into exile. In addition to many royal duties, she served as President of the Wimbledon All England Lawn Tennis and Croquet Club, an association continued by her son and daughter-in-law, the present Duke and Duchess. Their wedding was the first to be broadcast on the wireless – a fact that for the Archbishop of Canterbury in his blessing, ensured that the entire nation had participated in the service.
 Birmingham Gazette, 29th November 1934, p.5. Himley Hall was christened ‘Honeymoon Hall’ for the occasion.
 A small oil sketch for the present composition was seen by the present author some 35 years ago. It is currently unlocated.
 The first know occasion, a grey sketch painted c.1900 (Private collection) shows a policeman struggling to control the traffic flow of carriages and people at the corner.
 Henry James, English Hours, 1905, W Heinemann, p.21.
 Arthur Symons, Cities and Sea Coasts and Islands, 1918, Collins), p.165.
 Traffic, an essential part of the painter’s fascination with the corner, continued to be a problem until 1962 when the present roundabout was installed, altering the landscape yet again.
 Kenneth McConkey, John Lavery, A Painter and his World, 2010, Atelier Books, Edinburgh,
 Ibid, pp.119-123; 202-4.
 Ibid, pp.187-9.
 Lavery’s election alongside Alfred East and William Yorke McGregor was reported in Vandyke Browne’s ‘Lights and Shadows’ column in Quiz, 25th November 1881, p.6.
 Anon, ‘Art Interests – Glasgow Art Club’, The Scotsman, 26th February 1935, p.6.
 Our Art Critic, ‘Some Landscapes and Portraits’, The Times, 6th May 1935, p.7. Since Hyde Park Corner, 29th November 1934 is not listed in the Probate List of Contents of Lavery’s studio, February 1941, nor in the distribution lists to Legatees, 1946, it must be assumed that it was sold by the time of the artist’s death. Early provenance remains to be established.
 McConkey 2010, p.31.