Oil on canvas, signed and dated ‘Paris 1928’ lower right
Image size: 34 ½ x 27 inches (87.5 x 69 cm)
Original late 17th Century French le Brun frame
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This half-length portrait shows Mrs Abraham Koshland, née Estelle Wangemheim, full face to the viewer. Wearing a brocade coat with fur trim, her dress just indicated beneath is accentuated with three lavish strands of pearls.
De László received this commission through the Doll and Richards Gallery, Boston, which held an exhibition of the artist’s work in October 1925. Most of the pictures were shipped from England and included those of Lord Louis Mountbatten and his wife The Honourable Edwina Ashley wearing her wedding dress. Such was the demand for portraits that de László was unable to paint Mrs Koshland during his third visit to the United States between October 1925 and April 1926. He did not return to America until 1931 and so sittings for the present portrait took place during her visit to Paris in late April and early May 1928.
The sitter wrote to de László to tell him of the portrait’s reception at Longacre, their country home in Beverly, Massachusetts: “At long last, the portrait has arrived and is hung in our living room here in the country and we are enjoying it as much as I hoped we would. Everybody who has seen it, my family and friends, are full of enthusiasm for the lovely quality of your painting and the striking likeness, so once again I thank you! I look back often to our pleasant sittings and our “causerie” and I am hoping when I am in England in February that we will renew our pleasant acquaintance and I so much want to know Mrs de Laszlo. She was so gracious to us when we made that preposterously early morning call.”
Estelle Mary Wangenheim was born 8 April 1878, in San Francisco, the daughter of Henry Wangenheim (1847-1920) and his wife Rose Blum (1853-1920). On 29 April 1901 she married Abraham Koshland (1869-1944), son of Simon Koshland (1825-1896) and his wife Rosina Frauenthal (1829-1911). Simon Koshland immigrated from Bavaria as a young man and in 1862 founded Koshland Brothers in San Francisco. It became the leading wool merchant in America and when Abraham Koshland joined the firm, became known as Koshland & Sons. There were two children of the marriage, Stephen (born 1902) and William (born 1906). They lived at 170 Beacon Street, Boston, from 1913 until 1930.
The sitter died in 1960.
Philip de László was the leading society portraitist in England for the best part of thirty years in the first half of the twentieth century.
He was born in Hungary, to a poor family. His artistic skills were soon recognised, and he earned a place at the National Academy of Art where he studied under Szekely and Lotz. His portrait of Pope Leo XIII won him a gold medal at the Paris International Exhibition in 1900. He then went to Vienna, London and Ireland, where he married into the wealthy Guinness dynasty.
De László was flattering and prolific, painting five thousand portraits during his career and capturing the likenesses of royalty and the landed gentry. He was the last of a long line of portraitists in the grand style, a tradition stretching back to van Dyck.
Despite his British citizenship, his marriage and five British sons, de László was interned for over twelve months in 1917 and 1918 during the First World War. He was exonerated and released in June 1919.
De László was very much in demand by royalty and the aristocracy as a portraitist, and due to overwork suffered heart problems for the last years of his life. In October 1937 he had a heart attack and died a month later at his home in Hampstead, London.