"He instinctively can find the shining greatness of our American culture and does a good job of highlighting it (although he also does have those rare lapses when he writes about hockey, but that is something caused by impurities in the Eastern waters or something)." Erik Keilholtz
Under the patronage of St. Tammany
Mark C. N. Sullivan is an editor at a Massachusetts university. He is married and the father of three children. Email
In the library recently, I happened across a sumptuous exhibition-catalogue of the works of Philip de László, who followed Sargent as the preeminent portrait painter of Edwardian society. If you are unfamiliar with his work, as I was, you will find this online gallery of his paintings a revelation.
At the opening of the de László exhibition at Christie's in London this past January, the Telegraph reviewer wrote:
His glamorous portrait of the Queen Mother, painted in 1925 when she was Duchess of York, wearing pearls and what appears to be an off-the-shoulder dress, will also be in the exhibition. She recalled that de Laszlo draped her with blue material from his studio to get the daring effect.
It was not the only time that he took risks. Doreen Buchanan, the wealthy wife of an Army officer, was horrified when she sneaked a look at his work while he was out of the room.
Her dress was so revealing that one nipple was visible and she hastily rubbed her thumb on the wet paint to preserve her modesty. De Laszlo never noticed and her contribution to what is regarded as one of his best portraits became permanent.
De Laszlo had a talent for painting beautiful women and one of the finest pictures in the exhibition is his portrait of Anny Ahlers, the German actress and singer. Miss Ahlers, who suffered from depression and often failed to appear for sittings, died when she fell from a balcony in 1933. It is not certain whether she committed suicide but de Laszlo completed her picture using a model wearing her dress.
The society portraitist who "rose from humble origins as the son of a Budapest tailor to be the last in a 500-year tradition of court painters," wrote the International Herald Tribune's Suzy Menkes, held up "a mirror to the Indian Summer of the aristocrats of Europe in the Edwardian era."
Two dramatic bayonet slashes scar the noble, mustachioed face of Kaiser Wilhelm II, as he stands in his guard's uniform with favorite horse and dog - as in the best ancestral portraits.
The savaging of the canvas by Russian troops in Germany at the end of World War II brought to a symbolic end the era of the Hungarian painter Philip de Laszlo, who had died in 1937 after taking his brush to the crowned and coroneted heads of "old" Europe.
Today, he is high society's forgotten hero - the charmer in a green velvet jacket who swept Lucy Guinness, of the Irish brewing family, off her feet and went on to marry her and to paint regally the high and mighty on the cusp of two wars. ..
So why is de Laszlo's name not on every art lover's lips? Wood says that there is a strong resonance in England - but that the best-loved portraits tend to hang in ancestral corridors, rarely coming up for sale - and that the painter has been neglected in Hungary after falling out of favor in the Communist era. A small exhibition will now be staged in Budapest welcoming back to Hungary's brave new European world an artist who won the hearts and caught the faces of more royal sitters than any other painter in history.