Christie’s will be holding its annual Scottish Sale at the Assembly Rooms in Edinburgh on 26 October 2000. The sale is dedicated to Scottish artists and depictions of Scottish subjects. Leading the sale is a picture of one of the most important and famous golf courses in the history of the royal and ancient game of golf, North Berwick. The First Green, North Berwick by Sir John Lavery R.H.A., R.A., R.S.A. (1856-1941) dates from 1921 and is estimated to realise £500,000-700,000.
Established in 1832, the links course at North Berwick was a favourite of Sir John Lavery. In an oft-quoted confession Lavery once told a Scottish caddie that he “…was not much of a golfer” and the caddie agreed. To make a further point he recalled a more diplomatic Irish caddie’s response to the same observation, “Ah, sir, there are very few men can play like you”. Luckily his painting was rather better than his golfing skills and he produced a small but important series of golfing pictures upon successive visits to the home of Sir Patrick Ford at Westerdunes, about 25 miles from Edinburgh, in the years immediately following the Great War.
The First Green, North Berwick, is one of the most interesting works in the group, in that it incorporates a view of the little coastal town overshadowed by the hill, known as Berwick Law. Lavery intuitively balances this dominating feature on the right of the composition, by placing his vivid little group of golfers in the bottom left. The handling throughout is free and fluid and shadows indicate that this is a late afternoon game. Clearly visible is the spire of the North Berwick kirk, making it possible to identify the site of the painting precisely to the first of the greens of the West Links. North Berwick shares with St. Andrews the honour of being one of the oldest courses in the world to have been in continuous use. Rosemary Hope-Vere acquired the picture in 1930, hence the dedication in the bottom right hand side of the painting, `To Miss Rosemary Hope-Vere, With Best Wishes from J. Lavery, October 1930’. Lavery had painted her portrait on two occasions.