1915 Viscountess Chaplin, née Hon Gwladys Wilson by Philip Alexius de Laszlo (auctioned by Christie's)

These are Richard Green's notes in their entirety...


Budapest 1869 – 1937

A portrait of Viscountess Chaplin, née the Hon. Gwladys Wilson

Signed and dated 1915. June 14

Board:  35 5/8 x 28 in / 90.5 x 71 cm

Frame size: 35 x 44 in / 88.9 x 111.8 cm


The sitter and then by family descent


London, The French Gallery, A series of portraits and studies by Philip A de László, M.V.O., June 1924, no 1Literature

De László Archive 061-0070, letter from Viscountess Castlereagh to Philip de László, 25th November, 1914

The National Portrait Gallery, 1913-15 Album, p 92, fig B

The artist’s sitters book, vol I, f. 104: Gwladys Chaplin June 3rd 1915

This painting will be included in the catalogue raisonné of the work of Philip de László currently being prepared by the Hon. Mrs de Laszlo and Mr Christopher Wentworth-Stanley.   Please see www.delaszloarchivetrust.com

Philip de László is now recognised as one of the most significant portrait painters of the late 19th and early 20th Century. His great skill in capturing a sitter’s likeness and his ability to transpose glamour and vitality onto a canvas often equalled that of Sargent.

The artist’s correspondence reveals that de László was introduced to Mrs Chaplin by her sister-in-law Edith Castlereagh, née Chaplin, who took her to the artist’s studio in November 1914. Viscountess Castlereagh – who became the 7th Marchioness of Londonderry in 1915 when her husband Charles Stewart Vane-Tempest-Stewart succeeded his father – was already an important patron of de László.   The artist had made a striking three-quarter length portrait of her in 1913, and by 1915 he had also painter her husband, her son, and her mother-in-law. The Londonderry family would commission many more portraits over the next twelve years, a reflection of their prominence in London society.   Edith was a renowned hostess and her balls were justly famous, and in retrospect are emblematic of a lifestyle which was to vanish with the First World War.

It therefore seemed natural that Edith Castlereagh should introduce her brother’s wife to de László.   In a letter to the artist dated 25th November 1914, she informed him that Eric Chaplin, who was then fighting in the war in the Queen’s Own Staffordshire Yeomanry, was keen to commission a portrait of Gwladys.

'My brother is most anxious for you to paint her, and I should like to talk to you when I see you.   She really is a lovely creature, and I do hope it will be possible for her to be included in your exhibition, you must refuse all the rich ugly ones!!! An the year after you can have a "chamber of horrors"!'

The resulting picture, for which sittings took place in June 1915, was in fact not exhibited by de László until 1924, but it was then given a place of honour at one of his most prestigious one-man exhibitions, at the French Gallery in Pall Mall, as the opening portrait in the show. De László tended to choose the dresses and jewels his models should wear for the sittings, as he usually had very definite ideas as to what was required, often draping his own fabric on the sitters, or using his own props in order to produce the desired effect. In this instance he lent Gwladys Chaplin a long row of pearls, which, according to one of her descendants, she greatly disliked. However, the artist did not relent, and his sitter was eventually delighted with her portrait, though a compromise is attained by her holding rather than wearing the offending necklace.

The Hon. Gwladys Alice Gertrude Wilson was born in 1881, the fourth daughter of Charles Henry Wilson, 1st Baron Nunburnholme, and his wife Florence Jane Helen Wellesley. On 3rd August 1905 at Warter Priory in York, she married Eric Chaplin (1877-1947), the only son of Henry, 1st Viscount Chaplin and Lady Florence Leveson-Gower. Her father-in-law, an eminent MP and close friend of the Prince of Wales, had been embroiled in a scandal when his betrothed, Lady Florence Paget, eloped with the 4th Marques of Hastings shortly before their wedding. Revenge was implemented to some degree when Chaplin’s horse Hermit won the 1867 Derby against the odds, fighting injury, to the financial detriment of the Marquis. Henry Chaplin’s subsequent marriage to Eric’s mother was happy but cut tragically short when she died giving birth to a second son.

Eric succeeded his father as 2nd Viscount in 1923, and the couple made their home at 23 Chelsea Square, SW3. They were happily married, and had two sons: Anthony (b. 1906), a recognised zoologist and musician who succeeded his father in 1946 as 3rd Viscount Chaplin, and the Hon Niall Greville Chaplin (b. 1908).  Gwladys Chaplin died in 1971, aged 90. De László’s portrait pays tribute to her enduring beauty and vivacity.

We are grateful of Dr Caroline Corbeau who complied this catalogue entry with the assistance of the Chaplin family.


Budapest 1869 – 1937

Born in Budapest, Philip de László commenced his studies at the Hungarian National Academy of Arts and also studied at the Academie Julian in Paris. During this time he was patronised by many of the leading members of Austrian Society and became one of the most fashionable artists painting in the Austro-Hungarian Empire. In 1900 he married Lucy Guinness from the renowned Irish brewing family and in 1907 he moved to London where received many commissions from British aristocracy including a commission from Queen Victoria.

In 1908 de László visited the United States to paint Theodore Roosevelt, this trip provided him with a wealth of potential sitters and he painted a number of portraits of distinguished Americans. Briefly imprisoned on suspicion of spying during the First World War he continued throughout his life to paint portraits of some of the most famous and influential figures of the early twentieth century including Benvenuto Mussolini, Arthur Balfour, Jerome K Jerome and Sir Luke Fildes.

Strongly influenced by the work of John Singer Sargent, de László wrote in 1936 'the picture must show us the spirit by which the human form is vitalised…it must provide the sitter with the surroundings and atmosphere which are suitable to his personality and consistent with his state of life'."

From www.richard-green.com/DesktopDefault.aspx?tabid=6&tabindex=5&objectid=433712; minor flaws throughout image, especially the left edge, fixed with Photoshop by gogm. Not to be confused with Edith Chaplin.

1915 Viscountess Chaplin, née Hon Gwladys Wilson by Philip Alexius de Laszlo (auctioned by Christie's) From www.richard-green.com:DesktopDefault.aspx?tabid=6&tabindex=5&objectid=433712

This image of Viscountess Chaplin is included for completeness because this image often appears with images of Edith Castlereagh, née Chaplin.

Keywords:  1915, de Laszlo, Gwladys Wilson, Viscountess Chaplin, Wilson family, Chaplin family, straight coiffure, off shoulder neckline, strap sleeves, natural waistline, close skirt, necklace, earrings, bracelets

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