Sir John Lavery R.A., R.S.A., R.H.A. (1856-1941) Study for 'Ascot in Rain' 25.2 x 35.5 cm. (10 x 14 in.)

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Lot 35
Sir John Lavery R.A., R.S.A., R.H.A.
(1856-1941)
Study for 'Ascot in Rain' 25.2 x 35.5 cm. (10 x 14 in.)

Sold for £ 187,500 (US$ 249,924) inc. premium
Sir John Lavery R.A., R.S.A., R.H.A. (1856-1941)
Study for 'Ascot in Rain'
signed 'J Lavery' (lower right)
oil on canvasboard
25.2 x 35.5 cm. (10 x 14 in.)

Footnotes

  • Provenance
    Acquired by Major Victor Albert Spencer, 1st Viscount Churchill between 1901-1934
    Thence by descent
    Private Collection, U.K.

    Literature
    John Lavery, The Life of a Painter, Cassell, 1940, p.176
    Kenneth McConkey, John Lavery, A Painter and his World, Atelier Books, 2010, pp.160-3

    Although forecasts were fair, the sky clouded over at 11.00 am on the first day of Ascot in June 1922, and a downpour ensued. The rain stopped during lunch and re-started once the Royal Procession arrived and throughout the rest of the week, up to Gold Cup day, uncertain weather conditions continued. Few, the papers reported, had come prepared on that first day.

    Lavery was of course oblivious to the weather. A painter who had stood on the ice painting the Fleet at Scapa Flow during the last year of the Great War would not be daunted by a few summer showers. Indeed unfurled umbrellas added interest to the crowd, in which several spectators can be spotted consulting their betting slips. With several furlongs to go the race is approaching its finish and excitement mounts - even in these inclement conditions. Wanting to paint the Gold Cup he had been given free access to owners' stand where he would have the best view. He takes up the story:

    When I arrived I found the place railed off so that I could not be interfered with, so I put up my sketching umbrella and started work ... Then I realized that I was in the Holy of Holies, usurping the spot reserved for the high and mighty; and not that alone – my umbrella was blocking the view. I took it down at once and made myself as small as possible just as the rain came down in sheets, pouring down my back and mixing with the paints. Having caused such consternation I had to stand it and two weeks in bed afterwards. (Life of a Painter, 1940, p.176).

    Even though he would pay the price for his bravado he was nevertheless able to see Golden Myth take the Gold Cup.

    A further less finished sketch (sold Sotheby's 10 March 1993) is known, but the larger version may not have been completed until the following summer when he attended Ascot a second time and reworked the scene (see Richard Green, Modern British Paintings, 1987, no.1). Two larger canvases (unlocated), as well as The Jockeys Dressing Room, Ascot, 1923 (Tate) were the result. By this stage a summer campaign had emerged with visits to Sandown Park, Epsom and Hurst Park, and a notable group of 'weighing room' portrait sketches of celebrated jockeys. The present sketch however, is likely to have initiated the entire sequence and its vigour, despite the rain, amply demonstrates a painter eager to accept a fresh challenge.

    We are grateful to Professor Kenneth McConkey for compiling this catalogue entry.

    The present work was acquired by Major Victor Albert Spencer, 1st Viscount Churchill whilst he was His Majesty's Representative at Ascot between 1901-1934.
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