Historical Portraits Picture Archive

Study for a portrait of the Hon. Andrew Elphinstone (1918-1975) 

Philip de László (1869-1937)

Study for a portrait of the Hon. Andrew Elphinstone (1918-1975), Philip de László
Oil and Canvas
20th Century
40˝ x 30ľ in. (102.8 x 78.1 cm)
In the possession of the artist on his death; Private Collection
Sitters' Book II, f. 45: Andrew Elphinstone, 2 July 1925 [added by the artist]; Studio Inventory, p.3 (18): The Hon. Andrew Elphinstone - 40 x 32" - Canvas Unsigned - A study for the large picture in the possession of the Lord Elphinstone at Carberry Tower, Mid Lothian. To be included in the forthcoming catalogue raisonné of de Laszlo’s works, in preparation by the de Laszlo Archives Trust.
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Philip de Laszlo was one of the most important portrait painters of the early twentieth century; his measured but rapid approach encapsulates the fleeting atmosphere of change which one associates with the post-Edwardian era. Unlike the great portrait painters who preceded him, de Laszlo was competing against a medium which for likeness, simply could not be beaten. In an era when photography was biting at the heels of portrait painters, de Laszlo responded by producing a body of works which were so distinctive and intelligent in their rendering, that they in fact typified an era significantly more than his mechanically produced counterpart.

Born in Budapest, de Laszlo studied at the National Academy of Arts before moving to Paris then Munich, where he studied at the Academie Julian and the Bavarian Academy of Arts respectively. Undertaking his first Royal commission in 1894, painting Prince Ferdinand and Princess Marie-Louise of Bulgaria, de Laszlo soon established what would prove to be a highly lucrative practice in the Austro-Hungarian Empire. In 1900 de Laszlo married Lucy Madeline Guinness, a member of the wealthy Guinness family and through whom de Laszlo no doubt secured many important commissions. In 1907, the same year he arrived in England, de Laszlo experienced his first successful one-man show at the Fine Art Society in Bond Street, and in 1914 de Laszlo became a British subject. Despite being interned in 1917-18 on suspicion of spying, de Laszlo clearly experienced a tremendously successful practice in the upper ranks of society, producing around two-thousand seven-hundred works throughout his career.

With the faces of his sitters completed to a startling degree of humanity, his subject’s bodies were sometimes left in a seemingly unfinished state. When painting a sitter as prominent as the present however, and given the competence of the known completed version [Lord Elphinstone], it is certainly the case that this is an unfinished preliminary study as opposed to a consciously completed work of the type mentioned above.

Andrew Elphinstone was the nephew of the late Queen Mother, the younger son of Sidney Herbert, 16th Baron Elphinstone and Lady Mary Bowes Lyon, and is depicted here at the age of seven, proudly wearing a kilt of Royal Stuart tartan with matching socks. Enlisting into the Second World War, Elphinstone served first with the Cameron Highlanders and then as Aide de Camp to the Viceroy of India, Lord Linlithgow from 1941-43. Following the war Elphinstone became ordained into the Church of England working in Wimborne Minster and then after as Rector in Worplesdon, Surrey. Elphinstone was a talented musician, mastering the piano and organ as well as eager linguist, speaking fluent Gaelic and Urdu, picked up whilst working in India. He was also a competent writer, his book Freedom, Suffering and Love being published posthumously.

Suggested in the present portrait and confirmed in later life, Elphinstone was a proud and patriotic Scotsman who loved his native countryside, the final version of this portrait depicting a loch in the distance and a bow in his right hand. Elphinstone’s family were evidently impressed with the finished portrait, commissioning their own likeness in 1929, his father’s portrait still hangs in the head office of the Bank of Scotland, on The Mound, in Edinburgh.
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