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James Laver

Biographical information

Full nameJames•Laver
Used nameJames•Laver
Born14 March 1899 in Liverpool, Merseyside, England (GBR)
Died3 June 1975 in Blackheath, Greater London, England (GBR)
NOC Great Britain


The son of a Liverpool printer, Sir James Laver went on to become a poet, novelist, dramatist, biographer, and an art and fashion historian. At the age of 12 he won a scholarship to the Liverpool Institute, the school that Beatle Paul McCartney attended. A wealthy Liverpool shipowner gave Laver £1,000 to go to Oxford where he was accepted into New College as a commoner. He matriculated in 1917, but was then gazetted into the King’s Own Regiment, arriving in France for action just two days before Armistice was declared, and he saw no fighting.

After finishing his education, Laver was appointed Assistant Keeper of the Engraving, Illustration and Design Department at the Victoria and Albert Museum (V. & A.) in 1922. He was promoted to Keeper in 1938, and stayed at the V. & A. until his retirement in 1959. Between the wars, he wrote many novels, and his most successful was probably “Nymph Errant” in 1932. It was turned into a musical with lyrics by Cole Porter, and ran for two years. Shortly after the outbreak of World War II, Laver worked at the Treasury, and was then invited to become a lecturer with the National Savings Committee.

Laver married the Irish actress Veronica Turleigh in 1928. She died in 1971, four years before her husband, when he died as a result of smoke caused after he dropped a cigarette at his Blackheath home. A verdict of accidental death was recorded


Games Sport (Discipline) / Event NOC / Team Phase Unit Role As
1948 Summer Olympics Art Competitions GBR James Laver
Painting, Paintings, Open (Olympic) Final Standings Judge
Painting, Graphic Arts, Open (Olympic) Final Standings Judge