Philip de Laszlo was born in Budapest in 1869, the eldest son of a Jewish tailor, the family changed its name to László in 1891
The young Philip de Laszlo was apprenticed to a photographer while studying art, later he studied at Bertalan Székely and Károly Lotz in Budapest, eventually earning a place at the National Academy of Art, he then mover to Munich, at the time one of the centers of European culture and patronage .
Philip de Laszlo s portrait of Pope Leo XIII earned him a Grand Gold Medal at the Paris International Exhibition in 1900.
In 1907 he moved to England, he remained based in London for the rest of his life while traveling the world to fulfill commissions and was considered by many to be the natural successor of John Sargent who had retired that year.
Philip de Laszlo , was flattering and prolific, painting 5,000 portraits during his British career and capturing the likenesses of royalty and the landed gentry. He was the last of a long line of portraitists in the grand style, a tradition stretching back to Van Dyck.
One of the highlights was a portrait of the Queen Mother, painted in 1925, when she was the Duchess of York, which the Hungarian Pesti Hírlap newspaper praised as “harmoniously expressing the winsomeness of the duchess’s personality”.
Another will be a portrait of US society beauty the Duchess of Portland. Her husband, who commissioned the painting, was thrilled with the results, writing: “It has a ray of heaven illuminating in her face the charming qualities of her soul.”
During the First World War, Philip de Laszlo was interned on suspicion of being an “enemy alien.” Some accounts state this suspicion arose from his letters home to his family or his having given £1 to a begging Hungarian refugee; the real story is a little more complex. One night, a “starving and unkempt” man arrived at Philip de Laszlo ’s house, stating he was an Austrian officer escaped from Donington Hall and asking for help. Taking pity on the man, László gave him some food and a sovereign and sent him on his way. Realizing “the folly of his actions” the next day, Philip de Laszlo reported the incident, leading to the capture of the escapee but also to an investigation of Philip de Laszlo himself. Upon discovering the artist had forwarded money to relatives back home, the Secret Service interned Philip de Laszlo for the duration of the war. After the war, official proceedings were conducted to determine if Philip de Laszlo would be allowed to retain his certificate of British nationality.
Prior to his internment during WWI, Philip de Laszlo was commanding £1,000 per full-length portrait, the equivalent of £100,000 today. In America, his prices were $14,000 per full-length portrait, $10,000 for a three-quarter-length portrait, and $3,000 for a sketch. Later in his career, Philip de Laszlo would occasionally request £3,000 for a portrait if he didn’t want to paint that person’s portrait, although once or twice they still sat for the portrait and paid the £3,000 fee.
Philip de Laszlo was one of the most acclaimed and successful portrait painters of his generation but in common with many of his contemporaries, during the ensuing period of high Modernism, his work faded from public view. Like his forbear, John Sargent, Philip de Laszlo was a cosmopolitan figure whose sitters included European royalty and numerous individuals connected with the arts, science, politics, religion, business and fashionable society. Like so many portraitists, the work of Philip de Laszlo lost popularity when his sitters became figures of the past and when the artist’s style lost favor after his lifetime. Philip de Laszlo died in London 7 January 1939
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