De László is best known for his grand manner portraits of women and was in great demand amongst the elite of society for his ability to both capture an excellent likeness and imbue his subjects with a timeless grace and elegance. This late work is no exception and would prove to be one of the last the artist completed before his death on the 22 November 1937.
The present picture was commissioned as a gift by the sitter's father to celebrate her wedding and she attended the artist's studio for several sittings in May 1937. Eleven previous sittings had been cancelled in April and May due to the artist's ongoing heart problems. De László produced four related preparatory works, a charcoal sketch in what was to be his last sketchbook , a sketch in sepia chalk , one in graphite , and an oil sketch , all of which remained in his possession on his death. The artist also presented the sitter with a finished portrait drawing as a gift in honour of her marriage .
Cécile Elizabeth Florence was born near Liverpool on 3 May 1914, the youngest daughter of Sir Robert Rankin (1877-1961) and his wife Renée Baker (died 1932). Her father was a Conservative M.P. and was created a Baron in 1937 for his services to the City of Liverpool. The family travelled widely when the sitter was young, including visits to Chile and Montréal, Canada. She was educated in England and Switzerland, was fluent in French and Italian, and a keen skier and tennis player.
On 1 September 1937 Cécile married John Grandy, a junior officer in the Royal Air Force, and had two sons, John (born 1947) and William (born 1948). During the Second World War she served as an ambulance and senior staff officer driver while her husband distinguished himself as the commander of No.249 Hurricane Squadron, one of Fighter Command's most successful during the Battle of Britain.
John Grandy was made a Knight Grand Cross of the Order of Bath in 1967, and retired as Marshal of The Royal Air Force in 1971. In 1973 he and Lady Grandy became active in diplomatic social circles as a result of his posting as Governor of Gibraltar. His final appointment before full retirement was as Governor and Constable of Windsor Castle 1979-1989. Lady Grandy died on 13 September 1993, aged seventy-nine and her husband in 2004.
The sitter was also painted as a young girl by Sir Alfred James Munnings, P.R.A. with her mother and sister at the family seat of Broughton Towers, near Furness in Lancashire. That portrait was exhibited at the Royal Academy in 1922.
We are grateful to Katherine Field for writing the catalogue entry for this portrait, which will be included in the Philip de László catalogue raisonné, currently presented in progress online: www.delaszlocatalogueraisonne.com
The Hon. Mrs de Laszlo and a team of editors are compiling the catalogue raisonne of the artist's entire oeuvre. Katherine Field is the Assistant Editor. Please see www.delaszloarchivetrust.com or contact firstname.lastname@example.org for more information or to offer any contribution.