The Permanent Collections

Painting Collection

Sir John Lavery (1856-1941) Stars in Sunlight

Stars in Sunlight

Lavery, Sir John

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1936, oil on board, 50 x 60 cm (gift of the artist in 1937)

Sir John Lavery (1856-1941) was born in poverty in Belfast. Pulling himself up by his bootstraps, he trained as a painter, spending time in Glasgow, London and, as was very much the trend at that time, Paris. Lavery was rewarded for his efforts, becoming a successful portraitist and an official war artist. Throughout his career he also considered himself a documentary artist, and undertook to create portraits of all members of the Irish delegation in 1921 when negotiations for the Irish Treaty were taking place. In fact, so pleased were the Irish government with the help both Lavery and his wife Hazel offered them during this period that they invited him to paint a portrait of Hazel to feature on the old Irish Pound note. Her portrait appeared on the note until the 1970s.


While living in France, Lavery developed a fondness for landscapes, and his works suggest the influences of the Impressionists Edouard Manet, Edgar Degas and James McNeill Whistler. Stars in Sunlight reflects another of Lavery’s subject interests – capturing society women at leisure. He enjoyed painting scenes of fashionable ladies drifting idly in canoes on still waters, relaxing in hammocks, or painting in their elegant gardens.


The influence of Impressionism prevails in this painting, executed when the artist was eighty years old. The subjects appear completely at ease, enjoying the pleasures of one another’s company on a sunny afternoon in Hollywood, USA. One of the stars, the woman wearing the red dress, is the Roscommon-born actress, Maureen O’Sullivan, best known for her role as Jane, appearing opposite Johnny Weissmuller, in several Tarzan movies.


 The paintings of Sir John Lavery are represented in major collections worldwide.

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