Some Recent Work by Mr. P.A. de László, The Studio, Vol. 86, No. 366
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Some Recent Work by Mr. P.A. de László
The Studio, Vol. 86, No. 366
(Sept. 14, 1923), p. 128-134

It is some years since Mr. de László has held a collected exhibition of his works in London, so his recent show of portraits and studies, at the French Gallery, had a particular interest because it afforded an opportunity for judging the nature and extent of his development and the degree of progress which latterly he has made in his art. For this show he brought together a very considerable series of canvases which illustrated well the variety of his performance and gave an adequate idea of the character and quality of his achievement. Mainly, the collection represented him as a portrait painter and did full justice to his reputation as a distinguished exponent of this type of art; but it included also a number of open-air studies, very attractively treated, in which he appeared under a less familiar aspect. The exhibition, therefore, was something more than a record of his successes in an accustomed field of practice; it suggested that there are other directions in which he might, if he were so disposed, attain as great a measure of distinction.


With regard to his portraits there are certain points which call for special attention. In the past his work was always notable for its sureness of draughtsmanship, its expressive directness of brushwork, and its vigour of characterisation; it was singularly convincing in its confidence and it had an unusual air of vitality. It was, perhaps, more forcible than subtle, more concerned with robust actualities than with delicate refinements of suggestion, and its strength was asserted rather than quietly implied; but that is possessed the qualities which only a master craftsman could give is not to be disputed.


In his later works, however, Mr. de László proves that he has been able to associate with these qualities technical accomplishment in his powers as an artist. He has lost none of his certainty, none of his sureness of hand or of his executive vivacity, but he has added greatly to his acuteness of vision and he has become much more shrewd in his perception of tone and colour subtleties. He has gained, too, in his judgment of character; his analysis is more intimate and his suggestion of his sitter’s personality is more expressive than it was a few years ago. He never seems to have has any difficulty in producing an unusually correct likeness - he has always drawn too well and judged tones too accurately to fail in that respect - but he realizes now a good deal more than the mere outward aspect of the subject.


Fortunately, his exhibition included some of his earlier paintings as well as those which represented the latest stages in his evolution and, therefore, it made possible many instructive comparisons. It emphasized the progressive maturing of his art and made clear the extent of the change which has taken place in his application of technical methods, but it also showed that he has changed greatly in another way - in his aesthetic sentiment and sense of style. There was among the portraits one, of Madame la Baronne de Baeyens, which was counted, when it was painted some years ago, as one of the greatest of his successes and for which he was specially honoured in Paris. It was an admirable example of the production of a very accomplished foreign artist, trained on the Continent and working in the manner to which by his training he had become accustomed, and yet somehow it did not seem to belong to this collection of Mr. de László’s works. For, since he has made his home in this country he has assimilated to a remarkable degree the traditions of the British school, and his later paintings have become entirely British in character - his whole outlook has altered, and with a new nationality he has acquired a new conviction in art.


For example, his dignified, reticent, and firmly designed portrait of the Duchess of Portland, his stately and yet wholly human painting of H.R.H. Princess Louise, his delicate and vivacious portrait of Lady Crosfield, and his finely restrained and distinguished picture of the Countess of Ludlow owe their inspiration definitely to the art of this country and have all the better characteristics of our native school; others, like the study of La Comtesse Jean de Castellane, show his change of view in progress; and others again, like the portrait of Lady Forres, the brilliant sketch of a child, Lady Mary Stewart, and the gracefully realized Countess of Kerry, suggest the direction in which he is likely to move under the influence of the British spirit. He is too receptive and responsive an artist to remain where he is, and his work is too personal to be bound rigidly by any formula or tradition, so that he can fairly be expected to find a way of his own to apply the combination he is making of foreign training and British sentiment - it will be interesting to see the results at which he will arrive.


The sketches and studies which were given places in the exhibition were serious exercises and certainly did not deserve to be dismissed as only the leisure hour diversions of an artist who is as a rule occupied with work of more importance. Indeed, they gave rise to some feeling of regret that Mr. de László should not more often break away from portraits and allow himself opportunities to deal with subjects outside his regular range of practice. Necessarily, a portrait painter has to observe the limitations which are imposed upon him by the demands of his sitters and by the obligation to put down with sufficient fidelity what he sees before him; he has not much scope for the exercise of his selective sense or for the display of his ingenuity in the adaptation of facts to his pictorial purpose. In other branches of painting he has more freedom to choose and adapt, and to transcribe nature in the way to which he is temperamentally inclined. This freedom which Mr. de László has fully appreciated and he has clearly welcomed the chance to investigate fresh forms of expression. He showed several landscapes - the luminous note, In the Borghese Park, admirably free and spontaneous, and the subtle Sunset in the Sahara deserve particular mention - a few studies of African types among which the Study of an Arab, with its extraordinary sensitiveness of tone and colour statement, was most conspicuous, and a delightful Study of a Roman Market Woman which attracted greatly by its freshness of colour and its suggestion of brilliant sunlight. Impressive as his exhibition was in its assertion of his mastery of portraiture, it gained appreciably in interest by the inclusion of these memorable examples of his versatility.

(Editor's Note: The article was accompanied by the following illustrations:)

p. 129 – The Lady Forres [1922]

p. 130 – H.R.H. Princess Louise Duchess of Argyll [1915]

p. 131 – Her Grace the Duchess of Portland [1912]

p. 133 – La Comtesse Jean de Castellane [1922]

Lady Mary [sic Mairi] Stewart [1923]

p. 134 – Study of an Arab [1923]




By:  Natasha Wallace
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