A painting is not just a painting.
What stories are held in the background?
And with that question, I find myself heading down Alice’s rabbit hole.
My week began with Sir John Lavery (1856-1941), an Irish painter renowned for his portraits and wartime illustrations. On January 27, 2020, my daily art calendar offered up his delightful, “Girl in a Red Dress, Seated by a Swimming Pool,” precisely when the thought of sunshine was on my mind. It is January and the time when Vancouver enters the rainy season in earnest, preparing for the burst of spring growth. The sun has been missing for several days and this painting generated warmth, bright colours and a hint of mystery.
A girl sitting on a chair wearing a glorious red dress and a matching hat stands out against the background of bathers in a swimming pool filled with translucent water. She appears to be fully engaged in reading a book. There are two chairs. Did she have a companion? Is she waiting for someone? Why has the artist chosen to hide her face? What are her thoughts?
Sir John Lavery had a remarkable life. Here are some tidbits to whet your appetite to learn more.
- In 1889, John married his first wife, Kathleen MacDermott. It was only two years later that she died of the dreaded tuberculosis. They had one daughter, Eileen, who became Lady Simpill when she married William Francis Forbes-Sempill, 19th Lord Sempill. Alas, beginning in the 1920’s, Lord Sempill began passing military secrets to the Japanese. There is a story here….
- In 1909, Hazel Martyn, known for her extraordinary beauty, became John’s second wife. They had one daughter, Alice. Hazel was captured in more than 400 of her husband’s paintings. One of John’s paintings portrayed her as the allegorical figure of Ireland, created on commission from the Irish government. This depiction ended up on Irish banknotes from 1928 until 1975 and then as a watermark until the introduction of the Euro in 2002. There is another story here…
My dear blogger friend, Liz from Leaping Life encouraged me to add poetry to accompany my daily art painting. So, it is with her in mind that I share the poem that my sister, Sarah sent me a few days ago, by poet Myra Viola Wilds entitled “Thoughts.”
What kind of thoughts now, do you carry
In your travels day by day
Are they bright and lofty visions,
Or neglected, gone astray?
Matters not how great in fancy,
Or what deeds of skill you’ve wrought;
Man, though high may be his station,
Is no better than his thoughts.
Catch your thoughts and hold them tightly,
Let each one an honor be;
Purge them, scourge them, burnish brightly,
Then in love set each one free.