Historical Portraits Picture Archive

Vera Edyth Griffith-Boscawen Lady Broughton (1894 - 1968) 1922 1922

Philip de László (1869-1937)

Vera Edyth Griffith-Boscawen Lady Broughton (1894 - 1968) 1922, Philip de László
Oil on canvas
20th Century
40 x 24 inches 101.3 x 81.1 cm
Doddington Park, Cheshire, the Broughton family seat; Beaufort Castle, Invernesshire, in the possession of the daughter of the sitter, Lady Lovat; By descent to the previous owner, granddaughter of the sitter, Mrs.Detmar Blow
Sitters' Book, Vol.II, p.31:Vera Broughton Aug 1st 1922 Laib No.:L10881(529) / C3(12 N.P.G. 1921-23 Album, p.29
This work is to be included in The Catalogue Raisonne of Portraits of Philip de Laszlo, M.V.O., P.R.B.A. 1869-1937 being compiled by The Hon. Mrs. de Laszlo. We are grateful to the Hon. Mrs de Laszlo for supplying information about the sitter.

The remarkable history of Vera Boscawen Lady Broughton ensures her reputation as one of the more extraordinary pioneers of exploration and anthropology in the first half of the twentieth century. She is known as an explorer, as a big game hunter, as a fisherman and as a highly regarded natural and anthropological photographer.

Vera Edyth younger daughter of Boscawen Trevor Griffith-Boscawen of Trevalyn Hall, Rossett, Denbighshire, was born on the 2nd of January, 1894. In 1913, she married (as his 1st wife) Sir Jock (Henry John) Delves Broughton, 11th Bt.. He succeeded his father to the title in 1914. Their marriage was dissolved in 1940. There were two children of the marriage: Evelyn Delves, born in 1915 and Rosamund, born in 1917. The sitter was a remarkable character. She was an insatiable explorer and game hunter. She wrote Walkabout with Walter Guinness, 1st Baron Moyne, with whom she travelled a great deal. Walkabout was based in a six month trip which took them to Burma, Malaysia, Sarawak, Vietnam, the Philippines, China, Papua New Guinea and Australia, covering some 30,000 miles. The publication was illustrated with her photographs. Until the year 2000, she held the record for the largest tuna ever caught, off Scarborough, in Yorkshire. Her fish weighed some 700 lbs. Her considerable collection of Pigmy furniture, accumulated during her travels among the pygmies of Polynesia, was donated to the Pitt-Rivers Museum in Oxford. She was also considered one of the best-dressed women of her time. Lady Broughton never remarried, and died in 1968.

The portraiture of Philip de Laszlo is - as much as that of John Singer Sargent to the previous generation - utterly redolent of the time that it depicts. It is a signal achievement of any portrait painter to give the impression of being so utterly in sympathy with the spirit of his time that his work is the principal means through which we perceive it. In other words, it is impossible to separate the degree in which de Laszlo merely recorded Society in the first three decades of the twentieth century from that in which he actively embellished and interpreted according to the canons that both he and his sitters followed.

Portraits such as this display at once the qualities that endeared de Laszlo to his clients. The mood of the painting is one of languor and sophistication, but Lady Broughton's glance, although her attention is apparently distracted, remains cold and appraising. This is perhaps one of the least ''soft-edged'' of de Laszlo''s female portraits - particularly if one compares it to contemporary productions such as the exquisitely beautiful Lady Redesdale 1923 (Devonshire collection, Chatsworth Derbyshire). The gentleness of so many other female portraits by de Laszlo is replaced by a rather commanding and avian aspect, and Lady Broughton seems not unlike that a bird of prey. This is not the artist's fancy, and contemporary photographs confirm the fierce expression.

The present portrait is an object of particular interest, since it reveals an eccentricity of de Laszlo's method. He is known1 to have painted some of his canvasses in their frames, and in this painting both the ridge of thick, dried paint within the sight edge, and the splashes of dark paint and varnish on the gilt of the eighteenth century frame, betray this technique in this instance. It is less clear quite why he effected this practice, and it may be that it was a means to ensure that the painting at every stage reflected his final intention and was controlled by his conception of the complete appearance.

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.

1. Private correspondence with the Hon. Mrs de Laszlo.
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