Sir John Lavery RA (1856-1941)
Bishop’s Castle Tea Rooms - SOLD
Signed and dated ‘J Lavery 88' lower left
Oil on canvas
25.5 x 30.5 cm (10 x 12 in)
Provenance: Arthur Tooth & Sons; London Private Collection, UK
Exhibited: Craibe Angus Gallery, Glasgow, 1888
The International Exhibitions held in Britain’s great industrial cities of the 19th century became increasingly sumptuous towards the end of the century. The first Scottish Exhibition in Kelvingrove Park in Glasgow between May and November 1888, hosted an International Exhibition of arts and manufacturing from across the globe, attracted over five million visitors, and led to the building of Kelvingrove Museum and Art. Glasgow was not only Scotland’s industrial hub, it also boasted some of the most avant-garde artists and collectors in Britain, and its flourishing young group of painters, the ‘Glasgow Boys’, had recently formed. The most enterprising of these was John Lavery who, at the outset of the exhibition, concluded an arrangement with the dealer, Craibe Angus, to show fifty oil sketches painted on the spot throughout the duration of the show. In addition to a vivid record of the State Visit of Queen Victoria in August, these included paintings of the exhibition halls, studies of Welsh weavers, Indian Potters and an attractive ‘paintress’ on the Royal Doulton stand, who later found a career in Hollywood.
There were tobacco kiosks, bungalow tearooms and a Dutch cocoa house. And amid the bandstands, fountains and fireworks, on the hillside leading up to Glasgow University, beyond the North Kiosk, a medieval Bishop’s Castle was constructed to house the relics of Mary Queen of Scots – one of the special features of the exhibition. This had its own tearoom (depicted here) overlooking the entire park and, as can be seen, its patrons were served by waitresses dressed in Mary Stuart costumes.
A similar view of the tearoom, The Glasgow Exhibition, is in the Tate Britain collection. Lavery skillfully employed a swiftness of touch and economy of means to capture the essence, atmosphere and select details of these scenes, for instance in the focal point of this composition, the beautifully-observed military bandsmen, seen in contre jour. Thus in The Bishop’s Castle Tea Room, the speed and spontaneity of Lavery’s accurate eye could not be more clearly demonstrated.
Edited from original text by Professor Kenneth McConkey and Tate Britain’s gallery label