Sir John Lavery R.A., R.S.A., R.H.A. (1856-1941) The Arrival of the German Delegation 81.5 x 111.5 cm. (32 x 43 3/4 in.)
Lot 74*
Sir John Lavery R.A., R.S.A., R.H.A. (1856-1941) The Arrival of the German Delegation 81.5 x 111.5 cm. (32 x 43 3/4 in.)
Sold for £10,800 (US$ 18,152) inc. premium
Auction Details
Lot Details
Sir John Lavery R.A., R.S.A., R.H.A. (1856-1941)
The Arrival of the German Delegation
oil on canvas
81.5 x 111.5 cm. (32 x 43 3/4 in.)


    The artist
    Thence by descent to Lady Ann Sempill
    Her sale; Christie's May 1966
    Private Collection, Texas, U.S.A.

    In the days immediately following the Armistice of November 1918 Lavery sped to Scotland to record the act of surrender of the German Navy. 'Fog, mutiny and coal shortage', he tells us, delayed the arrival of the German commanders (John Lavery, The Life of a Painter, 1940, Cassell, p.146). The appointed hour, 11.00am on 15 November 1918, slipped by and the defeated vessels did not arrive at safe anchorage in the Firth of Forth until 4.00pm when assembling the members of delegation caused further delay. As he waited on the quarterdeck of the HMS Queen Elizabeth after nightfall, there was little for the artist to see. Although he busied himself making two preparatory sketches of the deck, 'fog and darkness blotted out the detail making it comparatively easy to get a quick impression'. Speed was of the essence, for when it came, the arrival of the delegates was a swift, inglorious affair. The naval rating, standing to attention on the right of the present picture is at 'slope arms' - and not 'present arms', which would be normal for the arrival of visiting Admirals.

    The delegates passed Lavery's viewpoint, under an arc lamp, in a second as they made their way to the fore-cabin where the signing would take place. At this point he quickly changed into a post-captain's uniform and, with his painting kit hidden behind flowers on a side table, took up position to record 'The End', the moment below deck when Admiral Beatty would receive the surrender. After preliminary discussions, due to the lateness of the hour, the meeting had to be resumed the following day.

    One of the initial 'Arrival' sketches has survived in a private collection. While it is possible that the present example is the second sketch, its size and Lavery's own inscription, 'IIIrd STATE', would tend to rule this out. As on many previous occasions, the artist's sketches were taken back to the studio to be reworked or repainted on larger canvases. The End went through at least two iterations before completion – as did the companion picture of The Arrival of the German Delegates (both Imperial War Museum). It is clear that the present study is as a variant on this latter work, replicating the scene but, crucially, adding the sailor standing to attention. Thus, it seems likely that Lavery regarded the present 'IIIrd STATE' as a development of a project yet to be definitively realized and that the donated War Museum painting was not, as has previously been thought, his final statement on the subject. A further version, also containing the sailor, is illustrated in the painter's autobiography (Lavery, Life, 1940, n.p., Mystery surrounds the variant Lavery showed at the 'Sea Power' exhibition at the Grosvenor Galleries in December 1918, noted for its vivid and atmospheric qualities (Anon, 'Relics of the War at Sea', The Times, 4 December 1918; quoted in McConkey 2010, p.142 (see note 133)). A similar problem arises with the picture shown at the War exhibition at the Royal Academy in 1919 when The Times critic preferred the more impressionistic Arrival to The End (5 May 1919). Lavery, like Whistler, was highly praised for his nocturnes, and the image of the quarterdeck of the Queen Elizabeth, cloaked in 'fog and darkness' was for him, more insistent than any of the personalities involved in the great pageant of Naval history.

    We are grateful to Prof K. McConkey for compiling this catalogue entry.
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  1. Penny Day
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