Lady Hazel Lavery, wife and muse of artist Sir John Lavery.

Hazel Lavery was the second wife of the Belfast born artist Sir John Lavery and featured in over forty of his paintings.

Perhaps the best known painting of Lady Lavery is the portrait of her as Kathleen Ní Houlihan where she is pictured in traditional Irish costume leaning on a harp, a picture which appeared on Irish bank notes from 1928 until 1976.

Born Hazel Martyn in Chicago in 1880, Hazel travelled to Europe having finished her schooling. It was at an artist colony in Brittany, France that she met and fell in love with John Lavery. However, Hazel’s mother thought John was much too old for her and demanded that she return home to America to marry Edward Livingston Trudeau who her mother deemed to be a more suitable match. However, after just four months Edward died and their daughter Alice was born a few months later.

As mother still objected to John Lavery, we did not marry until she died six years later.

In the early 1900s, Hazel and her five year old daughter moved to London reconnecting with John Lavery who was at this stage a well respected artist. During World War I, Hazel was very involved in fundraising events and John became a war artist on the home front earning him a Knighthood in 1919.

Coming from Irish ancestry, Hazel became interested in Irish politics and during the Anglo Irish war, she campaigned against British policy in Ireland. She first met Michael Collins during the Truce negotiations of 1921, when she made her home in South Kensington into an informal meeting place for delegates on both sides. Both John and Hazel were in Ireland the following year when Michael Collins was killed and letters he had received from Hazel were found on his body stained in his blood.

Hazel refers to this period of time working for Irish independence as the happiest days of her life.

In the latter part of her life, Hazel was plagued with illness and died on 3 January 1935. Throughout their marriage, John had painted portraits of Hazel up to and including a portrait of her on her death bed. He also painted a picture of her coffin before she was finally laid to rest. His paintings of Hazel can be found in galleries and private collections around the world.

A number of paintings of Lady Lavery were donated by John to the Hugh Lane Municipal Gallery of Modern Art on Parnell Square in Dublin.

‘Who Is She?: Lady Hazel Lavery’ was broadcast on 15 September 1996.