One of the major figures in the industrial and financial development of the Trans-Allegheny region, Andrew W. Mellon (1855 - 1937) was appointed Secretary of the Treasury by President Warren G. Harding in 1921, and he continued to serve under Presidents Calvin Coolidge and Herbert Hoover. As the Nation embarked on the most materialistic period in its history, Mellon's philosophy was one of debt reduction, tax reduction, and a balanced budget. His tax reform scheme, known as the Mellon Plan, reduced taxes for business.
Sec. Andrew W. Mellon
Philip Alexius de Laszlo
Oil on canvas
68 1/2 x 55 x 1 3/4"
His theory was that big business would prosper in proportion to the lightening of its tax load and its profit would be transferred to the rest of the Nation. During much of his tenure, general prosperity and times of peace enabled Mellon to implement his measures. The Great Depression, however, beginning in 1929, undercut Mellon's prestige and brought him under increasing criticism. Despite the downturn in the economy, Mellon continued his policy of balancing the budget by cutting spending and increasing taxes, which worsened the effect of the Depression on the ordinary citizen. When Mellon began spending a great deal of time overseas renegotiating World War I debt payments, Hoover relied more and more on Ogden L. Mills, Mellon's Under Secretary, for advice. In 1932 Mellon left Treasury to become Ambassador to Great Britain, and he was replaced by Mills.
About the Artist
Philip Alexius de Laszlo (1869 - 1937) was born in Budapest in 1869, the son of an unsuccessful tradesman, and later became a British citizen. Although his parents opposed his desire to paint, de Laszlo attended the Industrial Art School in Budapest and later the Acadamie Julian in Paris. At the age of twenty-four he received his first commission a portrait for the Court of Bulgaria. This commission placed de Laszlo among the royalty and their entourage, and henceforth he was known as a painter of the powerful and privileged. A hereditary title was bestowed on him by Emperor Franz Joseph of Austria-Hungary and he was awarded orders of Knighthood, Commanderships, Grand Crosses, and other distinguished titles. De Laszlo came to the United States for the first time in 1908 to paint a portrait of Theodore Roosevelt for the White House. It was at this time that he met Andrew W. Mellon, whom he painted four times. This portrait of Mellon was painted from life in Washington, D.C in 1931, while Mellon was Secretary of the Treasury.