Hazel Lavery

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Lady Hazel Lavery

Hazel, Lady Lavery (1886–1935, née Hazel Martyn) was a painter and the second wife of the celebrated portrait artist Sir John Lavery. Her likeness appeared on Banknotes of Ireland for much of the 20th century.[1]


Lady Lavery dressed as Flora, in a pose inspired by Botticelli's painting Primavera

Born in Chicago, Hazel Martyn was the only daughter of Edward Jenner Martyn, a wealthy industrialist of Anglo-Irish extraction. A contemporary account refers to young Hazel Martyn as "The Most Beautiful Girl in the Midwest".[1][2]

In 1903, she married Edward Livingston Trudeau Jr, a physician who died five months later.[3] In 1904, while still married to Trudeau, she met John Lavery, a Catholic-born painter originally from Belfast.[1] Her husband died shortly thereafter, and in 1909 she and Lavery married. Subsequently she became Lavery's most frequent sitter.[4]

Mrs Lavery sketching, 1910, Dublin City Gallery The Hugh Lane

During World War I, John Lavery became an official artist for the British government. In 1918, he received a knighthood, and Hazel Lavery became Lady Lavery.[5]

A biographer of John Lavery describes:

As if in reaction to his services to the Empire, Sir John and Lady Lavery 'rediscovered' a somewhat romanticized version of their Irish roots during the 1920s; but this led to a genuine engagement with the topical question of Home Rule, and Lavery painted several portraits of Irish Republican figures, including that of Éamon de Valera – who would be instrumental in keeping Éire out of the next world war.[5]

The Laverys lent their palatial house at Cromwell Place in South Kensington to the Irish delegation led by Michael Collins during negotiations for the Anglo-Irish Treaty in 1921. After Lady Lavery died in 1935 in London, her funeral mass took place at the Brompton Oratory in Knightsbridge. She was buried with her husband in Putney Vale Cemetery. In Ireland, a memorial service for her took place at the request of the government.[1][4]

Irish banknotes[edit]

After the Anglo-Irish treaty, the Irish Free State government invited Lavery to create an image of a female personification of Ireland for the new Irish banknotes. Such a personification harks back to figures in ancient Irish mythology and has been exemplified in recent centuries by women such as James Clarence Mangan's Dark Rosaleen and W. B. Yeats' Cathleen Ní Houlihan.[4]

This personification of Ireland modelled on Lady Lavery and painted by her husband was reproduced on banknotes of Ireland from 1928 until the 1970s. It then appeared as a watermark on Series B and C notes until the latter were replaced by the euro in 2002.[4][6]

Other portraits[edit]

Lady Lavery sat for more than 400 portraits by Sir John.[1] Many were similarly named, leading an expert to remark that "Hazel in..." is virtually a Lavery trademark.[5]

In 1923, Time magazine noted that

Sir John Lavery's much-clawed-over portrait of Lady Lavery (TIME, Aug. 13) has found a resting-place. Lady Cunard, who held that Artist Lavery had been "insulted" when her offer to present the portrait to the Tate Gallery was rejected, has given it to the Guildhall Gallery, London.[7]

Lavery's biographer described "Hazel in rose and grey" as "One of the nicest of Lavery's "Hazel in" pictures. For once he abandons the full-length format and the composition gains a more curvy, dynamic appearance. Hazel, profiled by what photographers call a hair light, wears a wispy dress the colour of faded hydrangeas".[5]

Another well-known portrait of Hazel Lavery painted by her husband is known as "The Red Rose" (1923). As one expert describes, this painting has a complicated history:

Her well known face and the characteristic red, purple and gold colour harmonies make The Red Rose immediately recognizable as a portrait of her. However, the canvas was begun in 1892 as a portrait of Mrs William Burrell. In 1912 it was transformed into a portrait of Sarah Bernhardt, and in the early twenties it was, for a brief period, a portrait of Viscountess Curzon.[4]


The Red Rose, 1923, Crawford Art Gallery

Lady Lavery knew many famous figures of her era and corresponded with such notable figures as Maurice Baring, Hilaire Belloc, Owen Buckmaster, Tim Healy, Shane Leslie, Reginald McKenna, Jessie Louisa Rickard, George Bernard Shaw, Lytton Strachey, Gerald Hugh Tyrwhitt-Wilson and W. B. Yeats.

This correspondence became public long after her death and reveals much about her personality and how she was regarded by her contemporaries. Regarding a visit to Ireland by the British Royal family she noted shrewdly

...they have been trying to keep that yacht race matter very quiet – and for various reasons it is better not to emphasise the affair – people get the idea that the Royal family would not be safe in Ireland..."[8]

In one of several letters she received from Winston Churchill he confided in her his thoughts about the creation of Northern Ireland

...I have practically always repeated what I said again & again in the House during the passage of the Bill, namely that we never contemplated the "mutilation" of Ulster. I think the Free State are making a frightful mistake in forcing this partition of their country. But of course, if they insist, the Treaty must be executed even though it be to the lasting injury of Irish unity...[9]

Much of this correspondence alludes to Lady Lavery's charm and beauty. Leonie Leslie, the wife of Sir John Leslie, once wrote to her:

Dear little Hazel, I enjoyed Sunday's dinner – & I just want to tell you that I think you are not only a bewitching syren – but a Real Good Sort too![8]

Sir Gerald Kelly, president of the Royal Academy, wrote to Shane Leslie

I do know Hazel Lavery and thought she was a nuisance. A beautiful nuisance but a nuisance![10]

Provocatively, after her death Sir Shane Leslie discussed Lady Lavery's relationship with Michael Collins and Kevin O'Higgins and wrote

I have been talking about your proposed life of Hazel Lavery with my hostess. We agree that it is an excruciatingly difficult book to write especially as so much MS material has disappeared...We think that much is quite impossible to tell. Remember Miss Collins is alive and the widow of Kevin O'Higgins. If Hazel's correspondence with those Irishmen Collins and Kevin were published or even their relations were truly portrayed there would be woe in Dublin and much protestation. Both were hopelessly in love with Hazel in the style of Tristram with the wife of King Mark because they had drunk a poisonous drug not intended for them...The Republicans intercepted her letters to Collins & decided to shoot them both...[11]

According to the memoirs of Derek Patmore, a writer, artist, and interior designer who was a close friend of Lady Lavery's, Collins was "the great love in her life" and that Sir Shane "told me that when Michael Collins was killed in an ambush they found a miniature of Hazel hanging around his neck with a poem Shane Leslie had written to her on the back of it."[12] Speculation about the relationship between Collins and Lady Lavery led a newspaper of the day to refer to her as his "sweetheart", an issue Collins wrote to his fiance Kitty Kiernan about. According to the Sunday Independent

Even more than 80 years after his death, speculation is still rife over Michael Collins's love life and whether or not he had an affair with society queen Lady Hazel Lavery.[13]

However, a 2006 book about Collins refutes this speculation:

...the IRA followed both Collins and Lady Lavery. They did a thorough examination of them, and they found nothing. If they had discovered they were having an affair, she would have been shot because they would have felt she was a double agent.[14]


  1. ^ a b c d e Sinead McCoole, Hazel: A Life of Lady Lavery, 1880-1935 (2nd ed.) Lilliput Press, 1996.
  2. ^ [1] Edward Jenner Martyn was a one-time vice-president of Philip Armour's Union Stock Yards & Transit Company. The Martyns were important donors at St. Chrysostom's Episcopal Church in the Episcopal Diocese of Chicago.
  3. ^ "Hazel Martyn Trudeau Weds", The New York Times, 22 July 1909
  4. ^ a b c d e Crawford Art Gallery, London
  5. ^ a b c d Sir John Lavery by Kenneth McConkey (Canongate Press, 1993)
  6. ^ Euro Changeover Board of Ireland: Economic and Monetary Union Act, 1998
  7. ^ [2] "Lady Lavery Will Hang", Time, Oct. 22, 1923. The "Lady Cunard" the article refers to the former Maud Alice Burke, wife of magnate Sir Bache Edward Cunard of the Cunard Line. The portrait referred to may be Hazel in rose and grey as discussed above.
  8. ^ a b [3] Georgetown University, Sir Shane Leslie collection, undated letter
  9. ^ [4] Georgetown University, Sir Shane Leslie collection, from one of the four following Churchill letters:11/8/1924, 11/12/1924, 2/27/1929, undated
  10. ^ [http://www.library.georgetown.edu/dept/speccoll/fl/f163}10.htm#id49629 Georgetown University, Sir Shane Leslie collection, 1959 letter
  11. ^ [5] Georgetown University, Sir Shane Leslie collection, 1950 letter to Audrey Morris.
  12. ^ Patmore, Derek, "Private History," London: Jonathan Cape, 1960, page 164
  13. ^ [6] SAOIRSE32, Ní neart go cur le chéile
  14. ^ Michael Collins and the Women Who Spied for Ireland by Meda Ryan, Mercier Publication (2006)

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