Philip de László was one of the most famous and cosmopolitan portrait painters of the late 19th and early 20th century, and perhaps the last heir of the grand manner, as recently seen at the Van Dyck in Britain exhibition at Tate Britain, where de László's portrait of Mrs Sandys hung between Lord Dalhousie and Almina Wertheimer by Sargent.
This is a preparatory oil sketch for a formal full-length portrait of the Marquess of Reading, completed in 1927. The finished portrait, commissioned for Delhi's Government Buildings, proved too large to hang in its destined place, and had to be cut down to a three-quarter length portrait. It is currently untraced, and was the third portrait de László executed of a Viceroy of India, having previously painted Lord Minto (1912, Presidential Palace, New Delhi) and Lord Hardinge (1920, also untraced). De László only made such preparatory sketches for his largest and most prestigious commissions, in order to fully work out the composition and colour balances before commencing afresh on the main canvas.
The present sketch perfectly exemplifies de László's method of "drawing with his brush": when compared with the final full-length portrait, one can observe that the contours, bone structure, and subsequent likeness of the sitter's face are already captured at this very early stage. De László almost always had a clear idea of the composition to adopt, as shown in the present sketch, which is very close to the portrait's final conception.
Rufus Daniel Isaacs, 1860-1935, was the son of Joseph Michael Isaacs. A Barrister at Law at the Middle Temple in 1887, he rose steadily becoming Q.C. in 1898, Bencher in 1904, Solicitor General in 1910 and Attorney General from 1910-13, the first of such with a seat in the cabinet from 1912-13. Appointed Lord Chief Justice in 1913, he was President of Anglo-French Loan Mission to the U.S.A. in 1915. From 1918-19 he was H.M. High Commander and Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary on special mission to the U.S.A. and was then Viceroy of India between 1921-26. He became Secretary of State for Foreign affairs in 1931.
Knighted in 1910, he was nominated K.C.V.O. the following year, at which time he was sworn in as a member of the Privy Council. The sitter was created Baron Reading of Erleigh in 1914, elevated to Viscount Reading two years later, Earl of Reading in 1917 and finally to Marquess of Reading in 1926. During this period he was also made G.C.B. in 1915 for special services in World War I, was nominated G.C.S.I. and G.C.I.E. in 1921 and G.C.V.O. in 1922.
In 1887 he married Miss Alice Edith Cohen, (later Dame Alice Edith, G.B.E., C.I.) with whom he had his only son, Gerald Rufus. Widowed in 1930, he later married Dame Stella G.B.E., Baroness Swanborough, daughter of Charles Charnaud, in 1931.
We are grateful for the assistance of Dr Caroline Corbeau in preparing this catalogue entry, which will be included in the Philip de László catalogue raisonne online (www.delaszlocatalogueraisonne.com)
The Hon. Mrs de László and Christopher Wentworth-Stanley are compiling the catalogue raisonné of the artist's work. Dr Caroline Corbeau is the British and French editor. Please see www.delaszloarchivetrust.com or contact email@example.com for more information.