Obituary  - The Daily Telegraph and Morning Post, Tuesday, November 23, 1937
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The Daily Telegraph and Morning Post, Tuesday, November 23, 1937

His War Adventure

 Mr. Philip de László, the portrait painter, died yesterday at the age of 68. More perhaps than any other artist of modern times, he recorded for posterity the features of the famous. 

 He painted in all more than 2,000 portraits of well-known people and had many noteworthy experiences through his close contacts with the great. But one was in a category of its own and utterly unexpected. It happened in 1914.

 He seemed at that time to be at the zenith of his remarkable career. The great desire in a fashionable world was to be the subject of a portrait by him, when suddenly the war broke out and for the time being altered everything.

 Mr. de László had to face the fact that, although he had married an Englishwoman, had five sons whose sympathies were wholly British, and was a member of the Victorian Order, he was by birth a Hungarian, and his country was at war with Britain. He decided to become a naturalised British subject.

 More than once in the two years preceding the war he had discussed the subject; now he applied for his papers, and influential men supported him. Before the end of August he had received his certificate.

Sense of Honour

At that period the greatest public hostility was being shown to citizens of foreign origin, and Mr. de László was fully aware of the possibility of his becoming a victim to the ‘spy’ mania. His consolation was that all who knew him were aware of his uprightness in all matters and his high sense of honour.

 Then, one night as he sat at home, a visitor was announced. Mr. de László found himself confronted by a man who was starving and of unkempt appearance. This man revealed himself as an Austrian officer who had escaped from Donington Hall, and he asked for help. 

 The conflict in the mind of the great painter was understandable, but in his pity he gave the man some food and a sovereign and told him to go. 

 Next morning, however, he saw the folly of his action, and went at once to the police. The escaped prisoner was recaptured.

 This incident was followed by Secret Service inquiries, which revealed that Mr. de László had been in other ways injudicious. He had forwarded money to relatives abroad.


 The Home Secretary acted suddenly. Mr. de László was interned for the remainder of the war. His appeal was rejected. At the end of the war came official proceedings to determine whether his certificate of nationality should be revoked.

 The decision was favourable to him, and Mr. Justice Salter, in announcing it, said Mr. de László had proved by his conduct to be a good man, and an honourable man. He had broken the law, but not in circumstances which showed him to be disaffected or disloyal. 

 Thereupon Mr. de László resumed his work as an artist, and, in the years that followed, went on to even greater triumphs than any he had previously achieved. 

 Philip Alexius László de Lombos - for that was his full name - became world-famous for the determined way in which he overcame all early obstacles to the full development of his remarkable gifts as an artist. Born in Budapest, he was the son of a tailor, and began to draw at the age of five. Before he was 13 he had done a considerable amount of work as assistant to a scene-painter, had interested himself in clay modeling, and had been employed by a photographer, who taught him to tint photographs. He went on to attend the National Arts and Crafts school.

Delicate Health

 Then, having been liberated from Army service because of delicate health, he started in earnest on his great career. When he was 37 he was awarded the gold medal of the Paris Salon for his portrait of Prince Hohenlohe, and 12 months afterwards he gained a similar honour for his portrait of Pope Leo XIII.

 In that year (1900) he married Miss Lucy Madeleine Guinness, sixth daughter of the late Mr. H. Guinness. Seven years later he became permanently resident in London. In 1912 he received a patent of hereditary nobility from the Emperor of Austria.

 By this time his achievements as a painter were on a dazzling scale. His description as the Winterhalter of his time was in no way exaggerated. He had spent five weeks at Potsdam, where sittings were given him by the Emperor and Empress, the Crown Prince and Crown Princess; he had painted King Edward VII, Queen Alexandra, Princess Beatrice, Princess Victoria, and other members of the Royal Family. The Emperor of Austria, King Constantine of Greece, the King of Bulgaria - all had sat for him. He was welcome at every Royal Court. Commissions showered upon him, and his portraits, however readily they might be executed, were always impressed with his distinctive personality. People in all countries - and nowhere more than in Britain - sought his services.

His Great Gallery 

 After the war he added steadily to his great gallery of portraits. He painted three more Presidents of the United States to add to his picture of Theodore Roosevelt; he painted Signo Mussolini, the ex-King and Queen of Spain, ex-King Manoel of Portugal, the Duke and Duchess of York, Princess Elizabeth, the Duke and Duchess of Kent, the Queen of the Belgains, the King of Sweden, Queen Marie of Rumania, King Carol, Primo de Rivera, Marshal Lyautey, and a great host of other people. 

 Yet in his prolific output he maintained the high standard that was always associated with him. In his later years, however, he confessed to feeling a little weary. ‘I am dead tired of painting portraits,” he confessed. His thoughts turned to other kinds of pictures, and there was one in particular which appealed.

 He wanted to create a masterpiece - a picture that would symbolise the suffering endured by millions of women during the war. He planned also to write his memoirs.




Photo from a 1937 
obituary of him in the Daily Telegraph, Tuesday Nov. 23, 1937. 

By:  Natasha Wallace
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