he brilliant Hungarian artist, Philip Alexius de László, 1869-1937, was the successor (in 1907) to Sargent's portrait practice in London. In 1933 de László demonstrated his dashing technique in a series of photographs, while answering questions posed by the writer A.L. Baldry. The photos and text were published in 1934 by The Studio Publications of London, in volume six of their "How to Do It" series.

12. The Value of a Mirror

The chief value of the hand mirror is that it gives a new point of view of both
sitter and portrait. It acts as a check on drawing and the relation of tones.

Q: Does that little mirror you keep looking into help you to decide what you are going to do?

"Yes, to some extent it does. But its chief value is that it gives me a new view of both picture and sitter and therefore enables me to discover any faults there may be in drawing, or in the relations of tones. It acts like the fresh eye which can often perceive defects that the painter, having got accustomed to them, has failed to detect. I take a look in the mirror from time to time as a sort of self-criticism. At any rate the mirror is an honest critic."

Q: Is it useful as a means of studying your sitter's expression?

"No, not particularly. But sometimes a mirror can be used in such a way that it helps to give the sitter the expression I want. When, for instance, he is getting tired or restless, or even, in some cases, when he is shy and I cannot, by talking, arouse in him the vivacity that he must have to make his portrait reasonably successful, I place a mirror in his line of vision so that he can watch in it the progress of the picture as I

The standing mirror entertains
the sitter and helps to maintain
the desired expression.

work. I like my sitters to see what I am doing to the portrait at every stage and I am sure that by letting them look on in this manner I not only induce in them the interested expression at which I aim, but also offer to some of them, who have, hitherto, not had an opportunity to see a picture in the making, an educational experience which they enjoy."

Oh, yes, people always do enjoy being taken behind the scenes and shown how things are worked.

13. Keeping the Sitter's Interest

"Then why not encourage them? I have often noticed that a sitter's interest in painting and even in art in general grows while he is in the studio and I do believe that as a result of his experience there he will always in the future approach art with much more interest than before."

Q: The only objection that occurs to me is that watching you at work might have a tendency to make him move about: don't you want him to keep still?"

"Naturally I do, but there is a great difference between being still and becoming set and lifeless. If the sitter's face is lacking in animation the risk that the portrait, no matter how hard one tries, will be a dull record is very great and I feel that such a risk ought to be avoided at all costs. My way of preventing it is to do all I can to keep his interest awake and to make him alert and lively. Still, I do not deny that it is difficult at times, as all people are not equally responsive. "

Q: I suppose sitters do vary greatly in their ways: you cannot deal with them all in the same manner."

"Very definitely not, and what is the right manner in which each one should be dealt with is the first thing a portrait painter has to find out; indeed, upon that will often depend the success or the failure of his picture. Before he can decide what kind of treatment he should adopt he has to give at least as much attention to his sitter's mental characteristics as to his physical appearance; a portrait is not a still-life study, therefore it must be a good deal more than a simple record of a face. It must be a psychological revelation as well."

page 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10

    Site created by A Stroke of Genius, Inc.