At the home of the Walpole-Wilsons, Nick is accosted by Sir Gavin, who, “no doubt because he prided himself on putting young men at their ease, drew my attention to another guest . . . . This person was standing under Lavery’s portrait of Lady Walpole-Wilson, painted at the time of her marriage, in a white dress and blue sash, a picture he was examining with the air of one trying to fill in the seconds before introductions begin to take place, rather than on account of a deep interest in art. [BM 33/28]”
The Lavery whom Nick mentions is Sir John Lavery R.A. (1856-1941), a Belfast-born society painter active in London after the First World War. Lavery received his art training in Glasgow and became associated with the Glasgow Boys’ brand of pastoral realism, but his bread-and-butter career consisted of commissioned portraiture of rich and prominent English patrons. In his later life, Lavery returned to Belfast and was active in the Irish nationalist movement. Despite his attempts to learn from his friend Whistler, his society portraits today seem somewhat bland and facile, though undoubtedly competent, and his name has faded from view since his death.
This reproduction of Lavery’s portrait of Lady Evelyn Farquhar (1907) may give an idea of the portrait of Lady Walpole Wilson that Powell envisions hanging above Widmerpool as Nick’s attention is called there by Sir Gavin.