Sir John Lavery, a Glasgow Boy in Paisley

A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man

Born in Belfast in 1856, Lavery was orphaned at three (his father was shipwrecked),  raised in County Down, dispatched to a Saltcoats pawn shop, ran away from home at the age of 15 and was homeless in Glasgow for a while before being returned to Salcoats then back to Moira, Co. Down.

He was as an apprentice re-toucher to the Glasgow Herald photographer and enrolled at the Haldane Academy (Glasgow School of Art), all by the age of 17. Insurance for a studio fire gave him the funds to study at the Académie Julian in Paris in the early 1880s, coming under the influence of Bastien-Lepage.

Anyone for Tennis ?

When he returned from France at the end of 1884, he re-established his studio in Glasgow, painting  ‘The Tennis Party’  which was exhibited in London and Edinburgh, before winning a gold medal at the Paris Salon. He had become one of the famous group of painters  known as the Glasgow Boys.

The Tennis Party

The tennis party *oil on canvas *76.2 x 183 cm *signed b.l.: J Lavery 1885

The painting depicts Cartbank tennis courts in Cathcart in the south of Glasgow and includes fellow Glasgow Boys artists Arthur Melvile, EA Walton and James Guthrie.


“A Rally”, 1885

This is also  Cartbank with members of the MacBride family. The artist Alexander MacBride recalled posing with his sister Elizabeth and a cousin also being there.


The Enchanted Glen


Although working in Glasgow, he was living in Paisley, probaby commuting from nearby Potterhill Station which opened in 1886. He stayed in the picturesque grounds of The Glen mansion at the foot of the Gleniffer Braes in what became known as Lavery Cottage, now Glen Park (on Glenfield Road).


Paisley Lawn Tennis Club (South Avenue) 1889

One of the players is Nina Fullerton* of Crossflat House (behind the Grammar School). The illustrious guests included Mrs MacKean the provost’s wife, Mrs Clark and Mrs Coats of the two great Paisley thread families who sat for Lavery along with their daughters.




The owner of The Glen James Fulton asked for portraits of his daughters, Alice and Eva.


Young Alice Fulton .

Teenage Alice Fulton

Eva Fulton


Provost Mackean’s connections opened doors for Lavery, including those of Windsor Castle, where he secured a sitting from Queen Victoria in 1889 and the commission below. Such was the power and influence of Victorian Paisley.

State Visit of Her Majesty, Queen Victoria to the Glasgow International Exhibition, 1888

Further information



Video presentation on ‘The Tennis Party’.

Potterhill Station The Glen Google maps aerial view of the now disused Paisley tennis courts.

Glasgow Boys

Book entry about Paisley Lawn tennis painting

Lavery gallery video with music

Google images

* Nina Fullerton died 13th November 1934 aged 70 years Woodside Cemetery

Thanks to Roddy Boyd for the info about Lavery living in  Lavery Cottage.

Contemporary cartoon about fashionable bandanas suddenly turning tennis into blind man’s buff .

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