John Lavery, Irish, 1856-1941
Title: On the Bridge at Grez
Date: 1884
Medium: Oil on canvas
49 x 100.5 cm
Signed: lower right: John Lavery 1884
Credit Line: Heritage Gift, Lochlann and Brenda Quinn, 2008
Object Number: NGI.2008.96
DescriptionThough the French village of Grez-sur-Loing, situated to the south of Fontainbleau, boasted pretty buildings, narrow streets, orchards and jetties, its dominant feature was the old stone bridge to which artists turned their attention repeatedly during the second half of the nineteenth century. Lavery was so taken with Grez on his first visit, which lasted a few weeks in 1883, that he returned the following year and stayed for nine months. Easily reached from Paris, it served as a picturesque and quiet retreat for both artists and writers.
This picture is unusual as it is a view on the bridge, rather than of it. The young man leaning casually on the wall, with his artist’s accoutrements by his side, is Carlow-born Frank O’Meara, an artist greatly admired by Lavery and a key member of the artistic community in Grez. His apparent indolence epitomises the easy pace of life in the village, while the manner in which he observes the women lingering in conversation close by is indicative of visiting artists’ keenness to find new subjects. The picture’s even tonality and subdued palette are typical of the style, often referred to as Rustic Naturalism, developed by the French painter Jules Bastien-Lepage and popularised throughout Europe, North America and as far away as Japan in the last decades of the nineteenth century.

March 2016

ProvenancePyms Gallery, London; Private Collection; Heritage Gift, Lochlann and Brenda Quinn, December 2008
Exhibition HistoryRoyal Glasgow Institute, Glasgow, 1885

Royal Academy, London, 1886

Impressions and Realities - An Exhibition of British, French and Irish Paintings, 1850-1930, Pyms Gallery, London, 1985

Irish Renascence: Irish Art in a Century of Change, Pyms Gallery, London, 1986

Frank O'Meara, The Hugh Lane Municipal Gallery of Modern Art, Dublin; The Crawford Gallery, Cork; The Ulster Museum, Belfast, 1989

The Painters in Grez-sur-Loing, Yamanashi Prefectural Museum of Art, Kofu; Fuchu Art Museum, Tokyo; Otani Memorial Art Museum, Nishinomiya City; Nariwa Museum, Okoyama; Sakura City Museum of Art, Sakura, 2000-2001

Pioneering Painters: The Glasgow Boys 1880-1900, Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum, Glasgow; Royal Academy of Arts, London, 2010-2011
Label TextThe old bridge at Grez-sur-Loing was the village’s dominant feature, and a subject to which visiting artists returned repeatedly. This painting is unusual, however, as it is a view on the bridge, rather than of it. It also celebrates the Irish presence in Grez, as the artist leaning on the wall is almost certainly Carlow-born Frank O’Meara, a figure greatly admired by Lavery and a key member of the local artistic community.