Edith Hope Iselin
Oil on canvas: 64.8(h) x 36(w) in /
164.5(h) x 91.4(w) cm
Signed, dated and inscribed lower right: de László / London 1930
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PHILIP ALEXIUS DE LÁSZLÓ
Budapest 1869 – 1937 London
Edith Hope Iselin (1907-2001)
Signed, dated and inscribed lower right: de László/ LONDON/ 1930
Oil on canvas: 64 ¾ x 36 in / 163 by 91cm
Frame size: 71 ½ x 43 in / 181.6 x 109.2 cm
Private collection, USA
M. Knoedler, New York, An Exhibition of Portraits by P.A. de László, 1932, no.8
Sitters’ Book II, f. 66: Edith Hope Iselin June 12, 1930
Letter from de László (London) to Adolph Ochs, 10 July 1930
The Art News, Vol. XXX, 2 January 1932, front cover illustration
Edward Alden Jewell, ‘Portraits by de László Shown’, The New York Times, 5 January 1932, p. 28;
‘Every Court But China’, Time Magazine, 25 January 1932
Letter from Marczell László to de László, 5 February 1932
Holme, C.G., ed., Painting a Portrait by de László, in How To Do It Series nº 6, Introduction by A.L.
Baldry, The Studio Ltd., 1934
To be included in the forthcoming catalogue raisonné of portraits by the artist currently being compiled by the Honourable Mrs De László, as no. 110831
Edith Hope Iselin was filmed in the studio gardens at 3 Fitzjohn’s Avenue, Hampstead, wearing the dress and veil in which she was painted. The camera, a Ciné-Kodak model B, had been a gift from George Eastman to de László after painting his portrait in 1926. It was the first 16mm motion-picture camera and the film had to be sent to America for developing. The films are a unique record of the artist’s life and capture many of his friends, family, and sitters throughout the late twenties until the artist’s death in 1937.
That there were numerous sittings for this dramatic and striking picture is suggested by the sitter signing the Artist’s Sitters’ book 12 June 1930 and the final sitting taking place on 10 July. The artist produced three preparatory drawings in order to work out how best to render the pose and complicated drapery. These were never transferred to the canvas, de László preferring to begin painting directly, noting: “I draw with my brush and all my painting is drawing.”
The portrait was reproduced in The Art News and the artist sent a copy to his brother Marczi, who praised the work: “I have never yet seen such a beautiful and interesting work by you … spontaneous, lightly and broadly … and in an extraordinary pose.” De László also painted the sitter’s half-sister Nora, Countess Colloredo-Mannsfeld, in 1913 and her mother in 1934.
Edith Hope Iselin was the daughter of Charles Oliver Iselin (1854-1932) of New York, a well-known banker and yachtsman, and his second wife, Hope Goddard (1868-1970). She spent much of her childhood at Hopelands, in Aiken, South Carolina, the winter home of her parents and attended Fermata school there. The estate was later given to the city of Aiken and is now a public garden. In June 1924 Edith was presented at the court of King George V and Queen Mary at Buckingham Palace, accompanied by her mother. At the time this portrait was painted she lived with her parents at 36 E. 72nd St. in New York.
In December 1935, while visiting friends in Middleburg, South Carolina, Edith secretly married Archer Jones, son of Mrs and Mrs. Archer G. Jones, of Richmond, Virginia. The marriage was not made public until November 1936, by which time the couple were settled in Denver, Colorado with their infant son Archer Iselin Jones. The marriage was a brief one and the sitter lived much of the rest of her life in Arizona where she owned a horse ranch near Tucson. She died at her apartment in the city on 23 March 2001, aged 94.
Katherine Field, Senior Editor of the de László catalogue raisonné
Fig. 1 Edith Hope Iselin in the garden at de László’s
home and studio at 3 Fitzjohn’s Avenue – Still from
the de László Foundation Archive.
By 1930 women’s dress had changed from the loose-fitting, informal and comfortable styles which characterised the mid-to- late 1920s, into a more sophisticated fluid line, which increasingly revealed the figure for the first time. Edith Hope-Iselin’s cool and collected appearance is created by her dress of white silk, fitting close to the body and flaring out slightly to the hem, the only decoration a small appliqué panel of silk just below the waist. The strap of the dress falling off her shoulder might be a deliberate reference by the artist to Sargent’s Madame X, depicted with a fallen diamond shoulder strap, which also, revealing a completely bare shoulder, caused a minor furore at the Paris Salon of 1884.1 Not that de László suggests that his sitter had a similar reputation to Madame X (an American professional beauty famed for her love affairs), but such a sartorial feature supplied what he considered as necessary drama to the modern woman’s appearance. The artist often complained about ‘modern unpicturesque dress’
and kept a supply of draperies in his studio, such as the gauzy shot silk stole draped over his sitter.2 This not only softens the sitter’s appearance but gives a hint of ancient Greece, very much a fashion trend in the 1930s where the ideal was to make women in such evening dress appear like moving sculpture. Raymond Mortimer in his Modern Nymphs (1930) praised Thomas Lowinsky’s illustrations for their ‘witty use of classical legend’, such as Aphrodite Leaves Her Temple (fig. 2), clad in evening dress and Cartier jewellery, New York in the background.
Fig. 2 Thomas Lowinsky,
‘Aphrodite Leaves Her Temple’,
illustration to Raymond Mortimer’s
Modern Nymphs 1930. Victoria
and Albert Museum, London. PHILIP ALEXIUS DE LASZLO
Budapest 1869 – 1937 London
Philip de László was one of the most stylish and successful portrait painters of the late nineteenth and first half of the twentieth centuries. Like John Singer Sargent (1856-1925), he was an exponent of the fluidly-painted ‘swagger portrait’, but always managed to capture a sense of the sitter’s interior life, sometimes with a tinge of romantic melancholy. He portrayed the glamorous European high society that was rent asunder by the First World War and the leading figures of the era that succeeded it.
Born Fülöp Elek Laub in 1869 in Budapest, the son of a tailor, Philip de László began his studies at the Hungarian National Academy of Arts under Bertalan Székely and Károly Lotz. In 1890 he won a scholarship to study in Munich at the Akademie der Bildenden Künste with Sándor Liezen-Mayer. He also studied briefly at the Académie Julian in Paris. De László’s first works were highly detailed genre and history paintings, but he soon turned to portraiture and became one of the most fashionable artists of the Austro-Hungarian Empire. He portrayed Emperor Franz Joseph I in 1899 (Hungarian National Gallery, Budapest) and in 1900 a hugely successful exhibition in Berlin led to commissions from the German Royal Family.
In 1900 de László married Lucy Guinness from the renowned Irish banking family and in 1907 they moved to London, where de László received many commissions from the British aristocracy. In 1908 de László visited the United States to paint President Theodore Roosevelt (American Museum of Natural History, New York), a trip which brought commissions from several other wealthy Americans. He was appointed MVO by King Edward VII in 1909. Briefly interned on suspicion of spying for Austria during the First World War, de László continued throughout his life to paint portraits of some of the most famous and influential figures of the twentieth century, including the Duchess of York (the future Queen Mother), Princess Elizabeth (the future Queen Elizabeth II), Andrew Mellon, Benito Mussolini, Arthur Balfour and Jerome K Jerome.
Strongly influenced by the work of Velásquez, de László wrote in 1936: ‘the picture must show us the spirit by which the human form is vitalised…it must provide the sitter with the surroundings and atmosphere which are suitable to his personality and consistent with his state of life’.
The work of Philip de László is represented in the Royal Collection, London; the National Portrait Gallery, London; the Hungarian National Gallery, Budapest; the American Museum of Natural History, New York and the National Gallery of Art, Washington DC.
 George Eastman (1854-1932), founder of the Eastman Kodak company, who popularised photography for the mainstream.
 De László Archive 079-0096, op. cit.
 Painting a Portrait, op cit. p.20.
 DLA032-0047, op. cit.
 The Iselin home was demolished after it was given to the city, the carriage house remains and is today the home of the Thoroughbred Racing Hall of Fame and Museum.
 “American Women at Court,” The New York Times, 7th June 1924.
 New York Social Blue Book, 1930.
 “Jones—Iselin,” The New York Times, 30th October 1936; “Marriage of Last December Announced,” Aiken Standard and Review, 3rd November 1936.
 “‘Little Hope’ of Hopelands Dies in Arizona,” Aiken Standard, Saturday, 21st April 2001.