Philip Alexius  de László

Getting to Know:

Philip Alexius de László

30 April, 1869 - 22 November, 1937

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Philip Alexius de László, PRBA was born Laub Fülöp in Pest (now Budapest) in 1869. He is best known for his commissioned portraits of influential and royal European sitters.

As the eldest son in a large family of humble-means and with his father largely distanced from their lives, Philip was extremely driven to both find success and support his family. He worked in several artistic fields including set design, sign calligraphy, ceramic painting, and as a portrait photographer’s apprentice, before beginning his studies at the Budapest School of Applied Arts in 1884, earning a place at the National Academy of Arts in 1885, and entering the Drawing School in 1886. Over the following five years, he also studied abroad, at the Royal Bavarian Academy of Art (Munich) and the Académie Julian (Paris).

His training was academic and this traditional approach informed his methodology throughout his career. He painted alla prima using poppy oil, avoiding mixing more than two colours on his palette at any given time to prevent muddying his canvas when applying wet paint on top of slowly-drying layers. He was praised for his less finished ‘sketch’ work as well as his formal portraits and he would often complete these looser works in just a couple of hours, making them a favoured option for patrons. 

Beginning his career as a genre and history painter, his debut royal commission in 1894 from the Bulgarian royal family set de László up for a successful series of royal commissions over the coming decades, including Emperor Franz Joseph, the German imperial family, and Queen Victoria. In 1900 de László visited Rome to paint Pope Leo XIII, a portrait which wonhim the Grand Gold Medal at the 1901 Paris International Exhibition. De Lászlo’s international fame brought him great financial success and many awards, including 17 medals and 22 orders during his lifetime.

De László moved to England with his wife Lucy Guinness in 1907, was made a Member of the Royal Victorian Order by King Edward VII in 1909, and in 1914 became a British citizen. He was ennobled by Emperor Franz Joseph in 1912.

In 2004, he experienced a new surge of recognition following a solo exhibition on his work ‘A Brush with Grandeur’ at Christie’s, London, which was presented by the Hungarian Ministry of Cultural Heritage.

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