Portraits: British 19th C, Scotland: Artists and Subjects 23 What more can be established about the friendship revealed in this painting?

Head of a Moor
Topic: Artist

This is signed and dated with a dedication 'To my friend' top left.

Martin Hopkinson, Entry reviewed by Art UK


The Collection has added
‘We have had a look at the painting 'Head of a Moor' and got more information about the inscription (attached). It looks to us as if it says:

Paris/March 80/To my friend LT/GFM

Therefore, the date is 1880, not 1889, as we previously thought it said.

We think LT is John Leslie Thomson, the artist. We have some of his works that were given to us as part of the Macarthur bequest, as was 'Head of a Moor'. We don't know who GFM was.’

Jacinto Regalado,

If the picture was given to Thomson, he would not be the one who painted it, and he was a landscape painter anyway, certainly not an Orientalist. He did paint in Brittany and Normandy and was influenced by the Barbizon School, so perhaps this picture is French.

Kieran Owens,

The Macarthur Bequest is named after the painter Lindsay Grandison Macarthur (1865 - 1945). In 1934, Macarthur married Beatrice Butts Thompson (née Howell) (b. 1873), whose first husband had been the above-mentioned John Leslie Thomson (1851 - 1929), whom she had married in 1904. Following Macarthur's death, his widow distributed his collection of paintings between various Scottish galleries.


In 1880, John Leslie Thomson would have been 29, and Lindsay Grandison Macarthur would have only been 15.

Could GFM have been an older member of the Macarthur family from whom Lindsay Grandison Macarthur inherited the painting?

As it seems to be written in different coloured paint, it is possible that the inscription of "Paris, March '80" is earlier than that of "To my friend LT - GFM". It is also possible that the FM of the last set of letters refers to "Ferguson Macarthur", a name that runs in the family. Is it certain that the first letter is G?

This discussion will at least able us to redate the painting to 1880, a helpful result. But without identifying the artist, GFM, it will not be possible to explain the friendship revealed in this painting, as the subject of this discussion. Any further thoughts after four months before admitting defeat?

Jacinto Regalado,

Munn was a landscape and still life painter. I can find nothing about him being an Orientalist painter.

Jacinto Regalado,

However, Munn did study in Paris and spent time painting in Brittany and Normandy, where he could have met or associated with Thomson.

Tim Williams,

Another portrait of 'an Arab' by Munn attached, reproduced in 'The art of George Frederick Munn' by Mary Rogers Cabot.

1 attachment
Tim Williams,

John Leslie Thomson acted as some sort of executor for Munn, which confirms the LT inscription on the painting.

1 attachment

This discussion, "What more can be established about the friendship revealed in this painting?", has attracted 11 posts since January. The painting is inscribed, "Paris/March 80/To my friend LT/GFM".

Tim Williams post (30 May) is the breakthrough. LT is known to be the artist, John Leslie Thomson (information from the collection, 29 January). GFM is George Frederick Munn (1852-1907), landscape and still-life painter. Tim's further post (31 May) provides a documentary link between the two artists and indicates the depth of their friendship. He also points to other pertinent paintings by Munn.

On this basis, the discussion has reached its aim and can be closed, subject to input by the collection and by my fellow group leader, Michelle Foot.

Thank you, Jacob. Could you formally recommend the update please? I haven't heard from Michelle, but the collection have already confirmed by email that they are very happy for the painting to be attributed to George Frederick Munn.

Anne Strathie,

I'm currently researching the friendship between Leslie and Macarthur and Macarthur's possibly association with John Singer Sargent, so was interested to come across this post. I noticed that Munn and Leslie both exhibited in an 1882 Society of British Artists exhibition (Evening News, 29 November 1882), which may help with the date of the inscription. I also wonder whether the 'famous American painter' in Tim Williams' 'smoking gun' reference could be Sargent.

Tim Williams,

I think either Sargent or Whistler. When I read it, Whistler immediately came to mind, but given the links you're exploring Sargent makes just as much if not more sense.

The complete text of 'The art of George Frederick Munn' is available to view online at archive.org. You might find some treasure in there!

Martin Hopkinson,

Munn would have known Whistler at the Society of British Artists
Both he and Thomson are on an address list probably for the private view of Whistler's 1884 exhibition at Dowdeswells
Would Sargent have been considered as famous in the first half of the 1880s?

Martin Hopkinson,

as Tim Williams will know Munn drew alongside Whistler at Victor Barthe's Chelsea life classes in the early 1870s and painted 'Harmonies'

Martin Hopkinson,

It would be worth checking the exhibition catalogues of the Society of British Artists and of the Grosvenor Gallery for this painting

Jacinto Regalado,

Biography from the Archives of askART

Known as a painter of landscapes and flowers, George Munn worked almost exclusively in Brittany and Normandy. Born August 21, 1851, in Utica, New York, he too his first art education with Charles Caverly, the sculptor. Later he studied at the schools of the National Academy in New York. Leaving the United States for England, he entered the art school at South Kensington where he was awarded a gold medal in sculpture. In 1873 he entered the Royal Academy School where he soon took a silver medal in modeling.

About this time Munn discovered painting and fell upon this new venture with great enthusiasm. Feeling that he could gain more elsewhere, he left Britain and took up his studies at the Julian Academy and Munkácsy's studio's in Paris. Upon his return and the subsequent exhibition of his work in London, beginning in 1875 at the Royal Academy, his work attracted the attention of George Frederick Watts, who induced Munn to come to work for him. This arrangement lasted a number of years to the great benefit of Munn. The artist exhibited extensively in Britain between 1875 and 1886. In addition to the Royal Academy, his pictures were to be found at the Grosvenor Gallery, Royal Institute of Oil Painters, the Society of British Artists and other local venues.

He married Margaret Crosby in 1900, and it was she who later prepared an affectionate book on his life and art. He died February 10, 1907 in New York City.

J. Forbes-Robertson, a fellow student and artist, wrote of his friend and his work: " Munn knew how to represent a simple piece of natural landscape, seizing its charm and recording it for the permanent possession of those before whose eyes it would never appear again in reality."

Written and submitted January 2004 by Edward Bentley, art collector and researcher.

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