LAURA ADELINE MUNTZ LYALL, O.S.A., A.R.C.A.
LADY IN WHITE
oil on canvas, laid down on board
inscribed on the reverse "From the estate of Robt. H. Reid - London, Ont. (said to be a portrait of Mrs. Robt. H. Reid)"
57 ins x 37.5 ins; 144.8 cms x 95.3 cms
Laura Muntz Lyall (1860-1930) was born in England and immigrated to Canada with her parents when she was ten years old. She loved to draw and paint as a child and eventually attended the Ontario School of Art, forerunner of OCAD University. She pursued further studies in London at the St. John's Wood Art School in 1889 and by the fall of 1890 was back in Canada where Joan Murray explains, she began studying under George Reid “gaining ideas about drawing and painting the figure from him, particularly the way light sculpts form."
Murray continues: "Reid was now painting full-scale canvases of individuals strongly modelled by light" and Muntz "undoubtedly saw examples of Reid's work...which had enjoyed considerable success in Paris." In 1891, Muntz decided to travel to Paris to further her training. She opted to study at the Academie Colarossi as so many Canadians did but also because Colarossi was one of the few academies that accepted women as students. By 1894 she had one of her paintings accepted for exhibition at the Paris Salon which brought her a great deal of cachet.
While in Paris Muntz shared her apartment with a young American painter, Wilhemina Hawley. They roomed together from 1893 to 1897 and in their final year together, Muntz painted a full-length portrait of Wilhemina, believed to be this lot. Joan Murray describes it this way: "Here Hawley wears a sumptuous gown and fingers a long chain - perhaps to indicate that this piece of jewellery holds a portrait of someone dear to her." A photograph of the painting was reproduced in the Toronto Globe a few years later in April 1899, the same year that a portrait of Hawley (no.122) was exhibited at the Women's Art Association of Canada in Toronto, lent by Muntz. Muntz had returned to Canada a year prior in 1898.
While this lot was entrusted to us with a history that presumed it to be a portrait of Mrs. Robert H. Reid of London, Ontario, this seems not to be the case unless Muntz decided to use the original Hawley portrait as inspiration for a commissioned portrait of Mrs. Reid. It seems far more likely that the sitter was incorrectly identified as Mrs. Reid and that this painting is the large portrait that was exhibited both in Paris in 1897 and Toronto in 1899.
Joan Murray, Laura Muntz Lyall, Impressions of Women and Childhood, McGill-Queens University Press, Montreal & Kingston, 2012, pages 12-13, 15, 21 and 26, and page 21 for the photograph of the oil painting reproduced in the Globe in April 1899.
Private Collection, Toronto
Department: Canadian Fine Art