Historical Portraits Picture Archive

Portrait of the Artist and his Wife 1932

Philip de László (1869-1937)

Portrait of the Artist and his Wife, Philip de László
Oil on canvas
20th Century
60 x 40 inches 152.5 x 101.5cm
By descent from the artist
Philip de Laszlo was born in Budapest, studying at the National Academy of Arts there before stints at the Academie Julian, Paris, and the Bavarian Academy of Arts, Munich. He took his first Royal Commission in 1894, painting Prince Ferdinand and Princess Marie-Louise of Bulgaria, and established a highly lucratice practice in the Austro-Hungarian Empire.

He married into the Guiness family through his wife, Lucy, in 1900, and lived variously in the U.K. and America (where he later painted Roosevelt) before settling in London in 1907. That year saw the success of his one-man exhibition at the Fine Art Society in Bond Street, and in 1914 De Laszlo became a British subject. However, he was jailed during the Great War on accusations of spying, and remained a controversial figure despite retrieving his position as a leading portraitist after the war.

This self-portrait with the artist's wife dates from 1932 and forms the culmination of a number of self-studies. He had painted a three-quarterlength studio self-portrait with his wife and son in 1921, but this composition is far more classical and grandiose - heavy stone pillars and curtains mark the spatial distance and Lucy De Laszlo sits in a suitably stiff 18th Century pose. Despite the weight of its ancestral allusions however, the briskly applied brushstrokes create a sense of enduring freshness and life. De Laszlo's aim was to show ''the spirit by which the human form is vitalised'' in a painterly style that looked to Reynolds and Gainsborough''s commanding elegance, and his masterfully light touch achieves that aim to full effect.

De Laszlo was incredibly industrious, boasting an oeuvre at the end of his life of some 2,700 portraits that included four American Presidents, two Popes and numerous Royals, Dukes, Generals, Politicians and Diplomats. He was awarded 22 orders and 17 medals, including the Grand Cross of the Crown of Italy for his portrait of Mussolini, and was widely regarded as Sargent's natural successor.
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