Grosvenor Museum purchases enchanting portrait
4 April 2016An enchanting portrait of the three-year-old son of the 1st Marquess of Crewe, painted in 1914 by one of the most celebrated portrait painters of the day, has gone on display at Chester’s Grosvenor Museum.
The little boy was born in 1911. Known to his family as Jack, his full name was Richard George Archibald John Lucian Hungerford Crewe-Milnes, and his courtesy title was Earl of Madeley.
He was the only son of Robert Crewe-Milnes, 1st Marquess of Crewe and his second wife Lady Margaret Primrose, daughter of former Prime Minister the 5th Earl of Rosebery. Lord Crewe was a distinguished Liberal statesman and during his son’s lifetime was Leader of the House of Lords and Secretary of State for India.
Lord Madeley was heir to the great estate at Crewe Hall, one of Cheshire’s grandest country houses, and grew up there. Tragically, he died in 1922, aged eleven, of measles, mastoiditis and meningitis. He was buried in the churchyard at Barthomley, where he was subsequently joined by his parents.
His portrait was painted by Philip de László (1869-1937). Born in Budapest, de László settled in London in 1907 and for the next thirty years was one of the most celebrated portrait painters in Europe. Cosmopolitan, international in outlook and a master of high style and painterly panache, his bravura portraiture in the grand manner was the last great flowering of a style stretching back two centuries to Sir Anthony van Dyck. De László was renowned for his speed and directness, for his ability to capture likenesses and convey character, and for his flowing brushwork and scintillating effects of light and colour that brought his subjects vividly to life.
Philip de László never sketched his sitter’s faces beforehand but simply took up his brush and started the picture. His technique naturally lent itself to the portrait sketch, of which he was an absolute master. He would rapidly complete the face and head, and then deliberately leave the rest of the canvas blank, giving these portraits a remarkable freshness and spontaneity. De László was often asked to paint children, and his fluid and rapid technique allowed him to capture their animation and inquisitive innocence. His portrait of Lord Madeley perfectly exemplifies these great skills.
Councillor Louise Gittins, Cheshire West and Chester Council’s Cabinet Member for Culture, Leisure and Wellbeing, said: “This lovely portrait will be appreciated by our visitors for its visual delight, for the charm of its young sitter, for the moving story of his premature death, and for the local historical interest of the child and his distinguished family.
“The painting was purchased with help from the ACE/V&A Purchase Grant Fund, the Grosvenor Museum Society and a bequest from Mrs Frances Wise, and conserved with help from the Megan Gwynne-Jones Charitable Trust. We are enormously grateful for their generous support.”
“I am delighted that the Grosvenor Museum Society has been able to help with this important acquisition. The society supports the museum across a range of activities, funding acquisitions for the collection, conservation and publications, education and events. The Society is totally committed to supporting the Grosvenor Museum and its mission.”
Clive Pointon, Chairman of the Megan Gwynne-Jones Charitable Trust and head of wills, trusts and tax at Chester law firm Aaron & Partners, said: “De László’s masterly oil sketch brings a splendid example of this internationally important artist’s work to the Grosvenor Museum.
“I am delighted that the Megan Gwynne-Jones Charitable Trust has been able to fund the conservation of this painting and its magnificent gilded frame, making a superb addition to the permanent display in the museum’s Art Gallery.”
The Grosvenor Museum is open Monday – Saturday, 10.30am - 5pm and Sunday 1pm - 4pm, admission free, donations welcome.
Clive Pointon, Chairman of the Megan Gwynne-Jones Charitable Trust; Maurice Rider, Chairman of the Grosvenor Museum Society and Councillor Louise Gittins.