John Lavery, the son of a failed publican, was born in Belfast in 1856. His father was drowned at sea while emigrating to America in 1859. John's mother died soon afterwards and he was brought up by relatives in Ayrshire.
Lavery studied at the Glasgow School of Art as well as in London and Paris. He first exhibited at the Royal Academy in 1886 and soon became a very successful portrait painter. This included a group portrait of the royal family in Buckingham Palace.
In 1917 Charles Masterman, head of the government's War Propaganda Bureau(WPB) recruited Britain's two leading portrait painters, Lavery and William Orpen to paint pictures of British military leaders in France. Unfortunately, soon after receiving the invitation, Lavery had a serious car-crash during a Zeppelin bombing raid.
Unfit to travel to France, Lavery agreed to paint pictures of the Home Front. In 1918 he painted pictures such as A Convoy, North Sea, Army Post Office and The End. After the Armistice he went to France and painted The Cemetery, Etaples (1919).
Lavery was knighted in 1918 and three years later became a RA. SirJohn Lavery continued to paint and exhibit at the Royal Academy until his death in 1941.