Liverpool artwork of the day – Wednesday May 16 2007. ‘Hazel in Rose and Gold’ 1918 Sir John Lavery (1856 – 1941) Oil on canvas, 201.3 x 100.3cm in The Walker Art Gallery
This is a portrait of Lavery’s wife, Hazel. She was an artist herself and originally came from Chicago. After their marriage in 1909 she became Lavery’s muse and model until her death in 1935. She appeared in many portraits by her husband. The most famous of these, perhaps, was produced in 1928. This was when Lavery was commissioned to paint a portrait of Hazel to be used as the central image on banknotes for the newly formed Irish Free State. Her image, as the seated figure of Eire, can still be seen on banknotes today in the form of a watermark.
In ‘Hazel in Rose and Gold’, Lavery has captured the elegance and stature of his wife. Hazel’s striking features and lavish dress are the distinguishing parts of the portrait. The dress, wrapped around Hazel’s slender body, unfolds in rich cascades of tactile cloth. Its layering is made clear by Lavery’s free brushmarks and subtle shifts from light to dark. Hazel’s face is radiant, illuminating an interior space otherwise void of natural light sources.