Historical Portraits Picture Archive

Portrait of The Viscountess Stuart of Findhorn (1902-1977) 1917

Philip de László (1869-1937)

Portrait of The  Viscountess Stuart of Findhorn (1902-1977), Philip de László
Oil on canvas
20th Century
30 x 25 inches 76 x 64 cm
Commissioned by the sitter's parents at the artist's suggestion; Descent to the 11th Duke of Devonshire; Gift to the sitter from the Duke of Devonshire, 1963; The 2nd Viscount Stuart of Findhorn, son of the sitter.
To be included in the forthcoming catalogue raisonne of the works of Philip de Laszlo, compiled by the Hon. Sandra de Laszlo.
The French Gallery, London, A Series of Portraits and Studies by Philip A. de Laszlo MVO June 1923 Cat. No. 34 Lady Rachel Cavendish (as a work in progress)
The idea of painting the portraits of Lady Rachel Cavendish and her future husband James Gray Stuart, 3rd son of the 17th Earl of Moray originated with de Laszlo himself, who was struck by the particular beauty of both sitters. Lady Rachel was acknowledged to be the most striking of the 9th Duke of Devonshire''s daughters, whilst of Mr Stuart the painter remarked that he had seldom seen a face that attracted him so much, ''not only his beauty of feature - but so sympathique.'' (op. cit.) The Duchess was aware of the gap, however, between an artist's enthusiasm and the completion of a project: ''I think James would like a sketch of her more than anything else. It ought to be done soon, as otherwise it will be like Blanche's- never done.'' (ibid.)

Lady Rachel Cavendish was born on January 22nd 1902, 4th daughter of Victor Cavendish 9th Duke of Devonshire, Governor General of Canada. She is recorded as having little interest in Society for its own sake, but as being of an enormously engaging and generous disposition. Her true pleasures lay in gardening, riding and life in the country. She enjoyed vigorous exercise, and in her youth she took a bronze medal in the Canadian Olympics. During the Second World War she devoted herself to organising entertainments and provisioning for Commonwealth troops stationed in this country, for which services she was appointed OBE in 1946.

Her husband Captain the Hon James Gray Stuart had served with distinction in the Great War in the Scottish Brigade, being mentioned in dispatches and receiving the Military Cross twice. On his return to civilian life he devoted himself to a political career -as did his brother in law Harold Macmillan, who had married Lady Dorothy Cavendish in 1920. Captain Stuart represented the family seat of Moray and Nairn, between 1923 and 1959. Between 1935 and 1941 Stuart was a Lord Commissioner of the Treasury and Government Chief Whip from 1941 to 1945. He exercised the latter function in opposition between 1945 and 1948 and in the returned Conservative government was Secretary of State for Scotland from 1951 to 1957. This long career was rewarded in 1959 when James Stuart was created Viscount Stuart of Findhorn. He was painted by de Laszlo in a portrait companion to the present picture.

Both the portraits of Lord and Lady Stuart demonstrate the qualities for which de Laszlo's work was prized in the early part of the twentieth century. In elegance and panache there is an echo of the grand painting of Sargent in the previous decades, but the mood is softer and there is a sense of domesticity and humanity. As in the photography of Cecil Beaton, the images produced are icons of their time -perhaps consciously so- but they are never larger than life. They also remain supremely assured pieces of painting.

Philip de Laszlo was born in Budapest, studying at the National Academy of Arts there before residencies 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 lucrative practice in the Austro-Hungarian Empire. He married into the Guinness 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. A roll call of his works reveals that he enjoyed a very successful practice in Society- despite the apparently lasting stigma of his internment in 1917-18 on a groundless suspicion of spying.
Philip Mould Ltd, 18-19 Pall Mall, London, SW1Y 5LU.Copyright Philip Mould Ltd.