Although born in Lewes in Sussex, Lawrence trained at King Edward VII School of Art, at the time part of Armstrong College a precursor to Newcastle University. He went on to study at the Royal College of Art under William Rothenstein. His studies were interrupted by the Great War and he joined up with the Tyneside Pioneers attached to the Northumberland Fusiliers as a subaltern. Even as a Pioneer he saw his share of the trauma of that war. He witnessed the action at Bray and the Somme and after the war illustrated the official account of his Battalion’s service.
On returning to the Royal College he was awarded a travelling scholarship in 1922 and the Prix de Rome in 1923. His subsequent travel and study in Italy greatly inspired and informed his artistic practice. He enjoyed a reputation as one of the country’s leading figure painters and portrait painters. In 1927 he was one of eight artists commissioned to paint the ‘Building of Britain’ mural scheme in St Stephen’s Hall in the Palace of Westminster. He also painted murals for the Laing Art Gallery and the Bank of England.
He is represented in the permanent collections of the Victoria & Albert Museum, the Royal Society, the Imperial War Museum, the Bank of England, the National Portrait Gallery, the National Trust, the Scottish National Portrait Gallery, the Russell-Cotes Art Gallery and the Royal Airforce Museum.
A portrait of Lord Plunkett is in the Auckland Art Gallery and a portrait of Sir William Rothenstein is in Royal College of Art Collection.