John Lavery, son of a Belfast publican, was orphaned at a young age. He lived with relatives and was apprenticed to a Belfast photographer, but later enrolled at the Haldane Academy, Glasgow. After his Glasgow studio burnt down, insurance money funded his studies at Heatherley’s in London and the Atelier Julian, Paris. He later worked at Grez-sur-Loing, where he helped form the Glasgow Boys. From 1885, he painted middle-class leisure pursuits and his later career was as a royal portraitist. In 1890 he married Kathleen McDermott, who died after giving birth to daughter, Eileen. In 1904 he married American Hazel Martyn, but both Hazel and Eileen died in 1935. Lavery then moved to Hollywood to paint celebrities, before retiring to Ireland.
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