This study portrait was painted in February 1924, during the sittings for a three-quarter length portrait of the sitter. That portrait had been commissioned by Marian Hoffman’s mother, ahead of the sitter’s marriage in November. De László regularly made these study portraits for sitters he particularly enjoyed painting and they were often completed without their knowledge.
It may have been intended as his wedding gift to the sitter. Both portraits were shown in the artist’s solo exhibition at the French Gallery, London in June 1924 and the gallery arranged for the shipment of the picture to the sitter’s home in America after the exhibition.1 A preparatory drawing for the three-quarter length is listed in the Studio Inventory but is currently untraced.
Marian Krumbhaar Hoffman was born 15 December 1901 in New York, daughter of Charles Frederick Hoffman and Zelia Krumbhaar Preston. Her father was President of the Union Club, Treasurer of the Cathedral of St. John the Divine, and a Trustee of Columbia University, and lived in Newport, Rhode Island, where he owned Armsea Hall.
After the death of her father in 1919 she inherited the sum of $50,000 a year until she reached the age of twenty one, when she received his $5 million estate. On 29 November 1924, she married Aymar Johnson. The sitter was presented at the Court of St. James’s in London on 26 June 1929. Her daughter Zelia was born in London on 20 September 1929, just five days after the death of her grandmother. The sitter and her husband continued to live at Armsea.
A number of de László’s sitters lived in the surrounding area including Gladys Vanderbilt, Mrs Robert Strawbridge, née Berwind and Anita Strawbridge. Aymar Johnson was a lieutenant commander in the Naval reserve during the Second World War but fell ill while en route to resume his duties in Bermuda and died in 1942. The sitter died 5 June 1981.
To be included in the forthcoming catalogue raisonné of portraits by the artist currently being compiled by the Hon. Mrs de László.
Exhibited: – The French Gallery, London, A Series of Portraits and Studies by Philip A. de László, M.V.O., June, 1924, no. 28 or 50.
Literature: – DLA107-0220, letter from the French Gallery to de László, 5 November 1924. Sitters’ Book II, f. 39: Marian K. Hoffman 18 Feb. 24.