The De Laszlo Exhibition

Philip de László self portrait

A few weeks ago we went on a ‘school trip’ to the de Laszlo exhibition at Gainsborough House in Sudbury. We are huge admirers of Philip de László at the Studios – especially his portraits and landscapes, so we were very excited to hear about this exhibition.

We got in touch with the de Laszlo Foundation who generously give scholarships to some of our promising students, and they kindly offered to help us with our expedition. Twenty of us set off early on a Saturday morning and got the train from Liverpool Street to Sudbury. 

Sudbury is a beautiful little market town and quintessentially English. As you arrive in the main square there is a large sculpture of Gainsborough. To the left is the appropriately named Gainsborough Street leading to Gainsborough House, a beautiful Georgian home that has been recently renovated and extended. The house holds many of his art materials and original pieces of furniture, including a grinding table to covet, a room full of plaster casts (some of which we also have in the studios) and pigments in pigs’ bladders, which is how artists stored their pigment before the invention of paint tubes in the 19th century.

The paintings of Philip de László are displayed in the new extension of the Museum. There is an incredible number of portraits, from small, sensitive portraits of his children to grand paintings of international royalty and famous figures from the day. Many come with moving stories about the sitter. There is a lovely portrait of the Queen, who at the time of her death was one of only two of de Laszlo’s sitters still alive. I wonder who the other one is?

Left: Princes Elizabeth of York, oil on canvas, 1933, The Royal Collection. Centre: Patrick David de Laszlo, oil on board, 1918, Private Collection. Right: Anny Ahlers as Madame Dubarry, oil on canvas, 1993, Private Collection.

The portraits are painted on canvas and on board. One work that particularly stood out to me was a fantastic portrait of an army officer with a beautiful bravura beard.

Landscape: Bronze Horses of St Mark’s, Venice 1926
© Dundee Art Galleries and Museums

We spent a lovely couple of hours in the downstairs exhibition space sketching and looking at the works before we were reminded that there was a whole extra floor above full of his landscapes!

For lunch, the museum cafe prepared a wonderful feast for us of sandwiches and quiches, beautifully presented and very delicious!

Afterwards, many of us revisited the exhibition and spent time again with our favourite paintings, getting carried away in the gift shop and looking around Sudbury. I naturally found more still-life props (which I do not need and do not have space for).

It was such a wonderful and inspiring day and I highly recommend anyone to take the trip up to Sudbury – it’s definitely worth a visit. Have a look at the wonderful reel Inna made here.

Beautifully coincidentally, our current International Artist in Residence, Anselme Long, revealed that his grandfather Reverend McKendree Robbins Long actually studied under de Laszlo. Here is an except from his biography, which can be viewed here:

McKendree’s first stop was the Slade School at the University of London, where he enrolled in instructional classes. The following year he moved on to the Sandow’s Curative Institute, also in London. McKendree later entered a competition with a self-portrait and won a highly coveted appointment to study under the renowned Hungarian portraitist Philip de László, court painter to King George VI. At the time McKendree became his pupil, de László had already painted the reigning pope, the president of the United States, and almost every crowned head in Europe, as well as numerous aristocrats on both sides of the Atlantic. De László was also a follower of John Singer Sargent, the American expatriate painter who also lived and worked in London. Through his close contact with de László, it is likely that McKendree met Sargent, a claim he would make in later years.

De László’s teaching methodology required his students to quickly render their compositions with paint directly on the canvas without the aid of preparatory drawings. Years later Ben Long IV, an accomplished artist in his own right, remembered his grandfather hastily painting on blank canvases without reference sketches.

The de Laszlo exhibition is on until the end of June.

For more information see:

I also created a video on de Laszlo’s painting techniques here: