Portrait of William Hesketh Lever, 1st Viscount Leverhulme

LL 3127


On 5 October 1923, Lever wrote to his son that he had seen a reproduction of an American family group by de Lászlóv and that he wanted a similar group of his family for the Lady Lever Art Gallery. de László succeeded Sargent as the principal international portrait painter using broad, free brushwork, however, he lacked Sargent's very individual informality. This is a very formal portrait showing Lever in court dress. It was commissioned by Lever for a fee of £1,575 - the highest amount the artist had so far received for a single portrait. Strangely, the use of the large chair behind Lever, although very much in the tradition of official and grand portraiture, emphasises rather than conceals his short stature. Three copies - for Thornton Manor, Bolton School and Unilever House, London - were made by a Mr Cullen, with de László himself painting in the head and hands. Each received £750. Lever wanted a posthumous portrait of his wife from de László as a pendant to this portrait, but the artist refused the commission.