Coquelicot Art of the First World War
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John Lavery, A Convoy, North Sea, 1918, oil on canvas, 172 x 198 cm, Imperial War Museum, London.

© Imperial War Museum.

Total war

58 - John Lavery

The same may be said for this painting by Lavery (1856-1941). Taught realism by Bastien-Lepage and influenced by Impressionism, Lavery enjoyed a successful career as a painter, and ever since the 1890s he had been turning out many officially commissioned works. So when war broke out, he was approached to paint it. After being prevented by an accident from going to France as planned, he developed an interest in maritime war subjects, and in this vein, produced this strange painting of an airship escorting and protecting a convoy off the coast of Norway. Here again, the need for narrative accuracy is combined with the desire to suggest space and altitude while at the same time introducing a new theme to painting which, however academic his pictorial construction, Lavery takes the credit for inventing.