Written and researched by Jenny Mukerji
Philip Alexius de Laszlo (1869-1937)
Philip de Laszlo and his wife Lucy Madeline, nee Guinness (1870-1950), are buried in the churchyard of All Saints’ Church, Tilford, Farnham.
Philip was born in Budapest, Hungary on 30 April 1869 and, at the height of his career, he was considered to be the most important court painter in Europe. After successes in Europe, Philip came to London, with his young family in 1907. Co-incidentally and conveniently, this was at the same time as John Singer Sargent (1856-1925), the American portrait painter in England decided to give up painting portraits.
Philip’s decision to come to England was the result of his marrying (on 7 June 1900 at Stillorgan Church in Ireland) Lucy Guinness, who wished to bring her children up in England rather than in Hungary. Lucy’s sister, Eva Frances Guinness (1868-1930), owned a house, The Willows, at Tilford and the de Laszlos often stayed there. Sometimes they stayed with the Trouton family at Melbreck, in Tilford and Philip also often rented Hammondsworth, a cottage in Frensham, for the summer months.
In 1910 Philip had painted a portrait of the German Emperor, William II. However, immediately prior to the outbreak of the Great War, Philip was granted naturalization as a British subject, his sponsors being Lord Devonport, Arthur Balfour, Arthur Lee and Howard Guinness, his brother-in-law. The timing was unfortunate as Hungary entered the war on the German side and Philip was attacked in the Hungarian Press and his money in Austria was seized. It also saw him fall under suspicion in England as the war progressed and his pictures began to be refused at exhibitions despite his giving generously to the Red Cross.
In 1915 Philip was commissioned to paint a portrait of Desmond Gardiner Trouton (1893-1917) who was the second of the four sons of the distinguished physicist Professor Frederick Trouton (1863-1923) and his wife Annie, nee Fowler. They also had three daughters. Lucy de Laszlo was the cousin of Desmond’s father and both families spent their summers in Tilford. Desmond was a major in the Royal Field Artillery when he was killed during the Battle of Passchendaele on 13 October 1917. He had been mentioned in despatches and is buried in The Huts Cemetery, south-west of Ypres. His eldest brother, Captain Frederick Thomas Trouton of the Cameronians (Scottish Rifles) was killed on 25 September 1915 and is commemorated on the Loos Memorial.
Philip was keen to support his family in Budapest, especially his mother, and sent money in letters to her via friends in the neutral countries of Holland and Spain. Although these letters were innocent, they were intercepted and in 1917 Philip had to appear before Sir Charles Matthews, the Director of Public Prosecutions, who gave him a warning. Then, unfortunately, a Hungarian internee came to Philip’s house, begging for help and was unwisely given £1. As a result, Philip was arrested and imprisoned in Brixton Prison. After a trial Philip was removed to Holloway Internment Camp where he suffered a nervous breakdown. Due to his illness, he was released in 1918 but remained under house arrest at a nursing home at 20 Ladbroke Gardens, London. Here he was only allowed to be visited by his wife and children. During his time of internment, Philip was supported by his fellow artists, including Sir Luke Fildes (1843-1927) and the art critic Alfred Lys Baldry (1858-1939).
Later, in peace time, Philip continued to paint and for relaxation he enjoyed playing golf at the Hankley Common Golf Club with his friend Charles Edmund Clare (1882-1963). Philip died at 3 Fitzjohns Avenue, Hampstead, on 22 November 1937.
Sources: Luke Fildes R A – A Victorian Painter by L V Fildes (Michael Joseph, London, 1968).
A Brush with Grandeur – Philip A. de Laszlo 1869-1937 (published by Paul Holberton, London, 2004).