Artwork by Laura Adeline Lyall Muntz,  Portrait of a Young Girl

Laura Muntz
Portrait of a Young Girl

oil on canvas
signed and dated 1865, framed as an oval
19.5 x 15 ins ( 49.5 x 38.1 cms ) ( oval )

Sold for $12,650.00
Sale date: May 31st 2016

Masters Gallery, Calgary
Private Collection, Toronto
Joan Murray, “Laura Muntz Lyall: Impressions of Women and Childhood”, Montreal/Kingston, 2012, page 139
A.K. Prakash, “Independent Spirits: Early Canadian Women Artists”, Toronto, 2008, pages 46 and 48
Laura Muntz shines as a portraitist with the creative and technical prowess to unveil the subject's inner nature. There is a dreamlike quality to her work, exemplified by her focus on light and colour and methodical dismissal of unnecessary detail. “[Muntz] has the sense of the motions and instinctive graces of childhood. She translates them with an insight and a touch unspoiled by sentimental preciosity, relieved by the freshest of colouring, the freest, the most ethereal, and the most supple technique.” In “Portrait of a Young Girl”, the child wrings her hands gingerly, caught in the breath before asking an innocent question. Muntz' maternal scenes reflect the tenderness that is associated with the most precious moments of childhood.

Although childless herself, Muntz lived a life surrounded by children. She was a school teacher upon moving to Canada and, later, the caregiver of her deceased sister's eleven children. Muntz painted portraits of women and children many years prior to her responsibilities to her sister's children, however, this dramatic turn of events must have further thrust Muntz into the study of her most cherished subjects. Her preoccupation with domestic scenes is also of historical significance as an entry point to the female experience in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries in Canada.

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Laura Adeline Lyall Muntz
(1860 - 1930) OSA, ARCA

Born at Radford, Warwickshire, England, the daughter of Eugene Gustavus Muntz, she came to Canada as a child with her family and they settled on a farm in the backwoods of the Muskoka District. She didn't begin formal art training until the age of twenty-three. She became a school teacher in Hamilton, Ontario, and in her spare hours took art classes.

With money saved from her teaching job she studies for a short time at the South Kensington School of Art, England about 1887. She returned to Canada and spent the next seven years earning money for study in Paris. In Paris, she studied at the Academie Colorossi under Joseph Le Blanc and others and she received Honourable Mention at the Paris Salon in 1895. She also travelled in Holland and Italy and at the end of seven years returned to Toronto and opened a studio. She was elected an Associate of the Royal Canadian Academy in 1895. She left Toronto and resided in Montreal where she continued to paint. Her canvas “A Daffodil” (a portrait of a girl holding a daffodil) was purchased by the National Gallery of Canada in 1910.

In 1915 she married Charles WB Lyall and returned to Toronto. She began signing her canvases Laura Muntz Lyall and even applied her signature to works she had done earlier so that each signature appeared on the canvas in opposite corners. For a period, her married life occupied most of her time and her painting activities almost ceased. Mention of her return to painting was recorded in the Toronto “Sunday World” by Irene Hare as follows, “Miss Lyall was one of our most indefatigable painters before the urge of other domestic duties took so much of her time that her painting was, to a certain extent, neglected. But her great number of admirers are delighted that she has again taken up her brush in earnest, and is very busy indeed at her 'attic' studio at her home. She has three large and very lovely pictures in process. All have little ones for their subject. One is s two beautiful children gambolling in a wood. The figures seem to melt in a hazy atmosphere of bronze and green at the same time imaginative and compelling. Two other small nude figures are disporting themselves along the sea-shore, in a glow of light and colour, the soft blues of the back-ground being particularly suitable for the fairy-like forms. In another still, the mother forms the keynote of the picture, with three beautiful child figures grouped about her....She is an enthusiastic painter. 'My hobbies' she will laughingly say, 'are only two-- painting and children. I don't know which I am fondest of.'”

She passed away in Toronto at the age of 70 and was survived by her husband, and a brother GH Muntz. It is not certain is there were other relatives. She is represented in the following collections: Art Gallery of Ontario; Parliament Buildings, Victoria, BC; Vancouver Art Gallery; National Gallery of Canada, and elsewhere including many private collections.

Source: "A Dictionary of Canadian Artists, Volume I: A-F", compiled by Colin S. MacDonald, Canadian Paperbacks Publishing Ltd, Ottawa, 1977