The exhibition included film and archive material, never shown in public exhibition before, that provide insights into the social and political context in which Lavery was painting. Passion and Politics documents the lives of Sir John and Hazel Lavery and their involvement in a newly shaped Ireland, a partitioned Ireland, which had only recently been formalised at the time of his gift. John Lavery's passion for his wife is steadfast throughout his career. She was his muse.
As her fame and reputation grew Hazel became an inspiration for others. As a media conscious couple, they saw the advantage of press attention and used it to the full. They contrived a celebrity cult status unprecedented in society of that time and Lavery's portraits of pre and post war England is redolent of the life of the privileged classes. His Irish oeuvre however is centred mainly on historic events and religious, political and social subjects. Central to this exhibition was the large triptych entitled The Madonna of the Lakes, which Lavery donated to the church in which he had been baptised: St Patrick's Roman Catholic Church, Belfast.
The work is based on a tableau vivant that depicts Hazel as the Madonna and consolidates her iconic status. Commissioned by the Irish Free State Government to design the new bank notes, Lavery used Hazel as his model for Kathleen Ni Houlihan. The original painting for this image is on view in this exhibition. Another highlight of the exhibition is High Treason, Court of Criminal Appeal: the Trial of Roger Casement, a large painting of one of the great miscarriages of justice from that period. Lavery paints the court room scene where Sir Roger Casement made his appeal against his sentencing for treason for attempting to bring arms from Germany to Ireland in support of the 1916 Rising. This work was an extremely brave undertaking for an artist whose livelihood was derived primarily from patronage by the British establishment.
'Crossings' at the American Irish Historical Society, 991, Fifth Avenue, New York
As part of Culture Ireland's Imagine Ireland program, a multi media presentation with artefacts, films, books and illustrations illustrating the cultural exchange between Ireland and the US. Using items from the Jackie Clarke Collection and the collection of the American Irish Historical Society. The Irish have travelled the globe leaving their unique cultural mark on places and people of other lands, in particular in the United States of America. The last US census recorded that 40 million people claimed Irish descent.
Island - Drawing Conclusions is an exploration of the history of Ireland through a series of maps, atlases, postcards, cartoons, and pamphlets spanning from the 2nd century to the 21st century.
It is a collaboration between the hosts and three other collections (the Jackie Clarke Collection - Ireland's Memory, Linen Hall Library and The Norman B Leventhal Map Center at Boston Public Library and provides a fascinating look at the political and cultural history of Ireland. The exhibition opens to the public on 13 June - 12 July at the American Irish Historical Society's 991 Fifth Avenue. New York, NY 10028, located on New York's museum mile.