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 Laura Adeline Muntz  (1860 - 1930)

About: Laura Adeline Muntz
 

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Lived/Active: New York/Ontario/Quebec / Canada      Known for: impressionist figure, portrait and interior painting

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Ad Code: 3
AskART Artist
from Auction House Records.
Reflections of Beauty
Artwork images are copyright of the artist or assignee
This biography from the Archives of AskART:
Laura Adeline Muntz (AKA: Laura Adeline Muntz Lyall, AKA: Laura Muntz Lyall) is considered to be the first Canadian woman artist to receive recognition outside Canada for her work (see awards below); and, in the late 20th and early 21st century the image of her most famous painting, Interesting Story, has become a ubiquitous poster and decorative print (1).

A  painter and teacher who was born in Radford, Warwickshire, England, and died in Toronto, Ontario, Canada, she emigrated with her family to a farm in the Muskoka District of Ontario (100 miles north of Toronto) in 1869.  She subsequently lived in Hamilton, Ontario (c.1880 – 1901); Toronto (c.1901 – 1906); and Montreal, Quebec (1906 – 1915); before moving back to Toronto in 1915 to be with her new husband and children (2).

Her mediums were oil, watercolor, pastel, gouache, pencil, graphite and mixed mediums.  Her subjects were children, women with children, women, genre, religion, still life, landscapes and portraits. Her style was Impressionism*.

Quote: 'My hobbies are only two - painting and children. I don't know which I am fondest of.’ – Laura Muntz Lyall

She became a school teacher in Hamilton about 1880.  Her formal art education includes: part-time private classes in Hamilton (1881) under William Charles Forster (1816 – 1902) (3); classes at the Ontario School of Art, Toronto (1882 - 1883) under William Cruikshank (4); art school in London, England (1887) (5); the Central Ontario School of Art, Toronto (6) (1888 – 1890) under George A. Reid; and the Académie Colarossi*, Paris (1891 – 1898) under Joseph-Paul Blanc, Gustave Courtois, Pierre Fritel and Louis Auguste Girardot.  During her time in France she also made excursions to Holland and Italy. (7)

She was elected a member of the Ontario Society of Artists* in 1891 and exhibited with them in 1901, 1902, 1903, 1905 and 1925.  She became an Associate of the Royal Canadian Academy of Arts* in 1895 (8) exhibiting with them 21 times between 1893 and 1927.  She also exhibited with the Art Association of Montreal (now the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts) 15 times between 1900 and 1931; and at the Canadian National Exhibition, Toronto in 1915, 1917 and 1923. (9)

In addition to the above organizations she also exhibited at the 1893 Chicago Exposition*; the Paris Salon* (Societe des Artistes Francais) from 1894 to 1898; the 1901 Pan-American Exposition, Buffalo, New York; and the 1904 Louisiana Purchase Exposition*, St. Louis, Missouri.

Posthumously, her work was exhibited in “From Women's Eyes: Women Painters in Canada” Agnes Etherington Art Centre, Kingston, Ontario (1975); “A View of One’s Own: Canadian Women Artists 1890 – 1960” Masters Gallery, Calgary (1994); and “Favourites: your choices from our collection” Art Gallery of Ontario, Toronto (2006).

Her works have been avidly collected for over 110 years, they are in many private collections and in several important Canadian museum collections including: the Agnes Etherington Art Centre (Kingston, Ontario), the Art Gallery of Alberta (Edmonton), the Art Gallery of Hamilton (Ontario), the Art Gallery of Ontario, the Confederation Centre Art Gallery & Museum (Charlottetown, P.E.I.), the Tom Thomson Memorial Art Gallery (Owen Sound, Ontario), the Vancouver Art Gallery (B.C.) and the National Gallery of Canada (Ottawa). The Art Gallery of Greater Victoria (B.C.), with 5 paintings and a drawing, has the largest public collection of her work, thanks to the bequest of Harold and Vera Mortimer-Lamb (10).

Her awards include an Honorable Mention at the Paris Salon in 1895, a Silver medal at the Pan-American Exposition in Buffalo in 1901 and a Bronze medal at the Louisiana Purchase Exposition in 1904.

Footnotes:

(1) Created in Paris, in 1898, currently in the collection of the Art Gallery of Ontario, Toronto.

(2) In 1915, she returned to Toronto to marry her widowed brother-in-law Charles W.B. Lyall, to help bring up her deceased sisters 11 children.  She began signing her canvases Laura Muntz Lyall and even applied this signature to works she had done earlier so that each signature appeared on the canvas in opposite corners.  Source: Canadian Women Artists History Initiative, Westbridge Dictionary, Macdonald Dictionary (see AskART book references).

 (3) Numerous highly respected sources have been used to compile this biography (see AskART book references); however, we are talking about a life that was lived over 80 years ago and, they do not always agree on all dates, places, and people.  Sometimes the differences are minor, for example a  year or two in date of residence, sometimes they are more significant; rather than ignore the ones that disagree with our narrative the author has chosen to incorporate them into the discussion to show awareness of them and, perhaps, to provide leads for future scholars or collectors.  In this instance: The Canadian Women Artists History Initiative (online), Helen Pepall Bradfield in Art Gallery of Ontario – the Canadian Collection, J. Russell Harper in Painting in Canada and the Westbridge Dictionary of Canadian Artists at Auction say her teacher was the well known Toronto artist J.W.L. Forster; however, according to most sources, J.W.L. was in France in the early 1880s studying at the Academy Julian (1879 – 1883) and there is no record of him having ever lived in Hamilton.  On the other hand, the author found no biographical information on William Charles Forster other than: his dates of birth and death; Paul Duval’s reference to him, as Muntz’s teacher, in his book Canadian Impressionism; and, the inclusion of an artist named William Charles Forster in the 1967 exhibition at the Art Gallery of Hamilton titled, “Some Artists Who Have Lived and Worked in Hamilton”. (See all books in AskART book references).

(4) All artists, teachers, students, influences and associates mentioned in this biography and its footnotes, except those with bracketed birth and death dates after their names, have their own pages in AskART.

(5) Paul Duval in Canadian Impressionism says, 'it was the St. John’s Wood Art School'; the MacDonald and Westbridge dictionaries and others say, 'the South Kensington School of Art'.  Both schools accepted female students.  After some time researching the subject, no further evidence was found to support either case, at this time.  The author has decided not to take sides on this one. (See AskART book references).

(6) The Ontario School of Art (founded 1879) became the Central Ontario School of Art and Design in 1890, the Ontario College of Art in the early 1900s, and the Ontario College of Art and Design in 1996.  Source: The Canadian Encyclopedia (online version).

(7) According to Maria Tippett in By a Lady, Muntz taught at St. Margaret’s College, Toronto (she provides no dates); according to Joan Murray in Home Truths Henrietta Shore took private classes from Muntz in Toronto (also no dates); and, according to myhamilton.ca, she taught at Hamilton Art School in the late 1890s. (See AskART book references).

(8) Women were not elected as full members (Academicians) of the RCA until the 1930s. Newton MacTavish in his book The Fine Arts in Canada (1925) notes one, non-elected exception, Charlotte Schreiber a charter member of the RCA, and comments that “all along there seems to have been a determination to debar women”.  Marion Long appears to be the first woman elected Academician in 1933 (Associate 1922).  Sources: Passionate Spirits: A History of the Royal Canadian Academy of Arts, 1880-1980 by Rebecca Sisler and The Fine Arts in Canada by Newton MacTavish. (See AskART book references).

(9) Source: The Canadian Women Artists History Initiative, Concordia University, Montreal (online).

(10) Harold Mortimer-Lamb (1872 – 1970) was a mining executive, publisher, art critic, art collector, photographer (see Muntz photo) and painter.  Vera (neé Weatherbie) (1909 – 1977) was a painter and frequent portrait subject for photographer John Vanderpant (see AskART for example) and for Group of Seven* member Frederick Varley (see AskART for example).  One of his portraits of her, Vera 1931 - National Gallery of Canada collection, is one of the most famous portrait paintings in Canada.   Harold Mortimer-Lamb is the father of artist Molly Lamb Bobak, the first woman to be officially designated as a Canadian war artist (World War II).

* For more in-depth information about these terms and others, see AskART.com Glossary http://www.askart.com/AskART/lists/Art_Definition.aspx

Prepared and contributed by M.D. Silverbrooke

** If you discover credit omissions or have additional information to add, please let us know at registrar@AskART.com.
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