Sir John Lavery R.A., R.S.A., R.H.A. (1856-1941) A Fair Spaniard, Mrs Chowne 72.7 x 57 cm. (30 5/8 x 22 1/2 in.)
Lot 27
Sir John Lavery R.A., R.S.A., R.H.A.
(1856-1941)
A Fair Spaniard, Mrs Chowne 72.7 x 57 cm. (30 5/8 x 22 1/2 in.)
£50,000 - 80,000
US$ 67,000 - 110,000

Lot Details
Sir John Lavery R.A., R.S.A., R.H.A. (1856-1941)
A Fair Spaniard, Mrs Chowne
signed 'J Lavery' (lower right); further signed, inscribed and dated 'A FAIR SPANIARD/MRS CHOWNE/JOHN LAVERY/TANGIER 09' (verso)
oil on canvas
72.7 x 57 cm. (30 5/8 x 22 1/2 in.)

Footnotes

  • Provenance
    Sale; Bonhams, London, 18 October 1984, lot 25
    With John Noott, Worcestershire, 11 November 1986, where acquired by the present owner
    Private Collection, U.K.

    Exhibited
    London, Colnaghi and Clarendon Gallery, Society Portraits, 1850-1939, 1985, cat.no.46 (ill.)

    In the early months of 1909, when Lavery was working at his studio on Mount Washington, outside Tangier, he received a visit from the young artist, Gerard Chowne and his wife. Almost twenty years younger than Lavery, Chowne had overlapped with William Orpen and Augustus John at the Slade School of Fine Art in the late nineties, and was now a prominent member of the New English Art Club. A distinguished flower painter, he was currently trying to expand his range and for a brief period around 1908 was seen as 'a zealous and not unsuccessful student of Lavery's methods' ('Art in Lancashire: Sandon Society Exhibition', Manchester Courier, 1 May 1908, p. 10). At this point Chowne was leaving Liverpool where he had been a university lecturer and founder of the Sandon Society of Artists, which he had encouraged Lavery to join as an honorary member.

    It is not known how the two artists met: they may have been introduced by R.B. Cunninghame Graham or William Rothenstein who had first encountered Chowne at Gibraltar in 1894. In the following years he and his wife spent more time painting in southern Spain and the south of France where in 1910 they were joined by Rothenstein's brother, Albert Rutherson. However the Lavery connection, prior to the production of the present canvas, remains obscure.

    Being so close to Andalusia, Tangier's Spanish links were strong, and recognizing the current vogue in London for pictures of Spanish beauties by painters such as Sorolla and Zuloaga, Lavery proposed that his two portraits of Mrs Chowne should contain easily identifiable Spanish elements (Mrs Chowne's parentage or possible Spanish ancestry remains obscure). She was however regarded as a woman of great beauty in the artist community. In The Spanish Hat, for instance, he observes that this one feature is adapted to an otherwise stylish European ensemble.

    In A Fair Spaniard, the national features are more obvious: the pieneta that would normally lift a mantilla, the floral hair-piece at the nape of her neck, and the magnificent silken manton or shawl that drapes her shoulders. This decorous wrapper, of the type reserved for the Feria at Seville, was much prized. It set Spanish women apart from those elsewhere in Europe and was used with great flourish in the flamenco (Havelock Ellis, The Soul of Spain, 1908 (Constable, 7th imp, 1924), pp.65-105). Lavery hails Mrs Chowne as 'a fair Spaniard', and while this refers to her beauty, it also alludes to her hair colour and the fact that she did not conform to the classic Andalusian facial type. Fair-skinned Spanish women were, according to contemporary sociologists, regarded as a relative rarity. Other classic Spanish female traits - coolness and self-possession, 'the quality of the gaze' – are there to see in Lavery's portrayal (Ibid, pp.80-5).

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