In creating the art work for St Pancras Lavery’s aim was to echo the romantic, often mysterious, neo -Gothic imagery as it reflects the precarious ever shifting nature of travel and human life- a thread which keeps reappearing in Lavery’s work.
The theme of travel, journeys past and present, and the transience of human existence. A hotel is a temporary home, ours for a short time, and then a stranger’s. Thus it bears the witness to a continuous flow of comings and goings.
When Gilbert Scott designed the building, photography -a new way of creating enduring images- was coming into the fore. Using old processes which pay homage to Still Lifes by the Old Masters, Lavery created images for some of the public spaces. Original artifacts found in the hotel were incorporated, a battered bowler hat, old fork, a torch, embossed playing cards, menu cards and cigarette lighter all dating back to the time when it was the original Midland Grand Hotel.
Retaining the theme of man’s brief passage through life, the portraits in the hotel corridors give a fleeting glimpse of the past, with life -size portraits of Victorian hotel staff who once haunted the corridors and chambers. As if our lives, though temporary, leave some lasting impression on the physical space we occupy.
In this same quest Lavery also made contemporary portraits of travellers peering through train windows, perhaps on their journey through life. That split second glimpse of a face, it speeds past looking into the distant blurred landscape, apprehensive, unsure, the latent image lingering for another second and then gone forever.