Artwork by Laura Adeline Lyall Muntz,  Woman in the Field

Laura Muntz
Woman in the Field

oil on canvas
signed and dated 1887 lower right
30 x 20 ins ( 76.2 x 50.8 cms )

Auction Estimate: $12,000.00$8,000.00 - $12,000.00

Price Realized $7,080.00
Sale date: May 29th 2018

Private Collection, United States
Laura Muntz's paintings of women and children captured a time when the choice of subject was thought especially suited, in the opinion of the day, to the sensibility of women painters. Young women, children, embodied innocence and the promise of the future, and, in addition, allowed her to revel in forthright candid storytelling with a naturalism she learned through long study and practice.

Born in Warwickshire, England, but growing up in Canada, in various rural settings, she was encouraged to paint by a congenial artist from Dublin, William Charles Forster (1817-1902), who taught art in Hamilton, Ontario. In time, Muntz herself taught art, preliminary to study in Toronto, and later, England and France.

This painting reflects the strong, new identity for herself that Muntz was forging in this early period of her work. Her attempt to draw the figure accurately in a pleasingly rural setting, and the way the paint is handled, is handled, embody a kind of striving on Muntz`s part, an ambition, that would make her one of the important painters of the day.

Characteristic of her work is her lively rendering of her subject's bonnet and the apron, as well as the movement of the young girl`s body and the placement of her feet. In these, and other, details, she celebrated the picturesque qualities to be found in rural subjects. Another picture done in the same period shows her interest in anecdote and story-telling: in it, she told a story from Charles Dickens. Possibly, this painting reflects literature of the day. A young female farm worker was the subject of many novels.

There is a record that Muntz sold her first painting in oil in 1887. She doubtless added the money to the savings she made for going abroad. It is temping to think that this is the painting that gave her the funds she needed for further study. It is extraordinarily bold for a first painting, but helps us understand how Muntz got to be called “incomparable” later, when she was praised for the “great charm” of her paintings and her “vigorous” subjects, qualities that abound here.

We extend our thanks to Joan Murray, Canadian art historian, for contributing the preceding essay.

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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