From the downstairs lobby of the Walker Gallery in Liverpool there are two grand staircases which sweep up to the main exhibition spaces on the first floor. There’s a number of paintings hung on the walls of the stairwells, but a couple that always catch my eye, one on each staircase, are the portraits of two attractive ladies.
On the left hand side there’s a very coquettish portrait of “Hazel in Rose and Gold” (1918) by Sir John Lavery. Wearing a very dramatic red coat and fur stole, her head turned flirtatiously over her shoulder, she looks very elegant and self confident.
Hazel, the subject of the portrait, who had married Lavery, who was born in Belfast, in 1910, was an American – her father was a Chicago industrialist – and the widow of a Canadian doctor. She sat for more than 400 portraits for her husband and also modelled for other artists including John Singer Sargent. She also appeared on banknotes of the Republic of Ireland from 1928 until the 1970s as the personification of Ireland based on a painting by her husband, who was an Irish Catholic and, despite being knighted in 1921, was sympathetic to Irish Independence.
Irish £10 banknote featuring Hazel Lavery as the personification of Ireland Picture source Wikipedia
The second portrait, hung on the right hand stairs “The Lady with the Japanese Gown: Miss Enid Rutherford” (1905), by James Hamilton Hay is much more demure. Her dress reflects the popularity of Japanese art and culture among artistic circles in Europe at the end of the 19th and beginning of the 20th Century. The subject, who was also an artist and studied at the Liverpool School of Art. married Hay in 1907, but died four years later. She was the daughter of Sir William Rutherford MP, a Lord Mayor of Liverpool,