Completed Portraits: British 19th C, Scotland: Artists and Subjects 40 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

Completed, Outcome

This discussion is now closed. The artist has been identified as George Frederick Munn (1852–1907) and the date of the work changed to 1880. The inscription in the top left has been added to the Art UK record and the John Leslie Thomson (LT) and George Frederick Munn (GFM) friendship noted in the artwork description field, as well as Thomson’s connection to the Macarthur bequest.

Thank you to everyone who contributed to the discussion. To anyone viewing this discussion for the first time, please see below for all the comments that led to this conclusion.


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.

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Tim Williams,

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

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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 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.

Anne Strathie,

Thank you for keeping this string open. I've been travelling on holiday, so apologies for the slow response. Sargent and E. A. Walton knew each other, possibly as early as 1885 (both painted at Broadway around that time) and both Thomson and Macarthur exhibited with Walton in London in 1913 (per newspaper adverts I found on BNA); both Sargent and Whistler are referred to as being admired by the Glasgow Boys, several of whom trained in Paris and might have known Sargent from there; Melville, Walton and Guthrie visited Sargent in Paris in 1889 - see Macarthur and Thomson are less well known than the Glasgow Boys, but I'm trying to pull together enough information on Macarthur to establish how/when he may have met Walton - and possibly Sargent when he was in Broadway. There's also a Chelsea connection, as CR Ashbee designed a studio for EA Walton, near to where Whistler lived. Just before finding this posting I'd contacted the Kirkcaldy Museum and have heard back from Jane Friel, who is probably a colleague of Martin Hopkinson. I've also noticed that some ArtUK entries on Macarthur and Thomson's works mention the bequest, others don't, so I wonder whether it's worth trying to track down the full listing of the bequest as some of the other paintings by them and other artists may not be tagged with the bequest information, which clearly links a good number of UK galleries together. Sorry, rather long, but hopefully some of it is helpful and of interest.

Martin Hopkinson,

not a colleague of Jane Friel - 24 years since I retired from the Hunterian Art Gallery, University of Glasgow!

Anne Strathie,

Sorry, my misunderstanding, Martin - when I saw the Fife credit on the photograph and the connection with Thomson I thought you were perhaps inquiring on behalf of the Kirkcaldy Museum.

Anne Strathie,

Apparently artist-critic R.A.M. Stevenson wrote an article on Thomson in The Art Journal of February 1898 (per Glasgow Herald, 22 January 1898). Does anyone have access to this from home/office, as it might mention some of his and Stevenson's Society of British Artists and other associates in common. Stevenson also has connections to Broadway, where MacArthur lived for a while, as does Alfred Parsons, another artist in the Society of British Artist exhibitions.

Martin Hopkinson,

The Meisterdrucke painting certainly does not look like Mann - but can one some skilled enlarge the insription - and find any other signed Munns?

Well done for finding that, Marcie! According to Wikipedia, Mann lived in Tangiers from 1890 to 1892. 'Tangier from the Dunes', 1892 is signed in a similar way.

The Meisterdrucke image is too blurred, but it looks like '(?) study, (?)/1900/Alexr Mann'. The date looks like 1900 or perhaps 1908, the last year of his life.

Mark Wilson,

The details of the two subjects in Marcie's comparison are so identical in pose, clothing, backdrop etc, that they can only be of the same life model and the same session, but painted from different positions and presumably different artists.

Munn's wife's tribute to him ( is very loving, but a bit light on dates and facts. However the introduction by the actor Johnston Forbes-Robertson, who was with Munn at the RA Schools, says that he went on from there to study at the Académie Julian. This was presumably in the mid to late 1870s (he started at the RA Schools in 1873). According to Wiki, Mann went to Académie Julian in 1877, so they could well have overlapped.

So that is likely where these pictures were painted. It would also explain the Paris inscription, despite the subject. I don't know if John Leslie Thomson was also a student or a friend later on. Certainly all three men were of similar age, born 1851-3. The March 1880 date on the Munn might be when it was created, but the donation later - it's in a different ink - or it could be the date of the gift a couple of years after it was made.

The only mystery is the date on the Alexander Mann, which I read as 1900 or 1909. Perhaps it's the later and done by someone sorting out studio contents after his death. Being a study from a life class might also explain its untypical look for that artist.

Kieran Owens,

Alexander Mann's wikipedia entry states that "He recorded his visits and ideas for studio compositions in sketchbooks, using photography as well to assist his memory of a subject." and that "In 1877 he went to Paris and enrolled at the Académie Julian, and then studied under Mihály Munkácsy and from 1881 to 1885 under Carolus-Duran."

In the 1901 UK Census, Mann is listed as living at "Lidard (sic)", St. Julien's Road, Norwood, in London. He died, aged 55, at 93, Leigh Court Road, Streatham, London, on 26th January 1908. Thus, he possibly was not in Paris during any of those years.

Of George Frederick Munn, his biography ('The Art of George Frederick Munn' by Margaret Crosby Munn and Mary Cabot (Dutton, 1916)) states that "He received his education in art in London at the Royal Academy and studied further in Paris at Julien's and Munkacsy's (sic) studios."

Mihály Munkácsy is known for several studies of Arabs:

If both Mann and Munn were in Paris at the same time just before or in 1880, they both could have attended the same life class at which this Arab model was posing, which seems likely to have been at Munkácsy's studio, with Munn executing his painting in 1880 and with Mann finishing his anywhere between that year and up twenty or more years later from vivid sketched notes and photographs. One thing is for certain. Having died in January 1908, Mann could not have finished it in 1909, so either the date on that painting was posthumously applied or we are not reading it correctly.

Kieran Owens,

The Paris-based American Register of the 6th June 1885 noted in its Art Notes column that the "German" artist Eduard Charlemont (1848-1906) (who was born and died in Vienna) exhibited with Alexander Mann in the Paris Salon of that year, both receiving honourable mentions from the Jury for their submissions. See also:

Kieran Owens,

While not suggesting that the sketch drawing of an Arab on horseback in the right-hand side painting by Charlemont is a study for the painting by Mihály Munkácsy on the left, it is interesting to note that the theme is featured in both artist's work, albeit with a gap of over a decade between each work. However, the two artists definitely knew each other as their exists a portrait of Munkácsy by Charlemont painted in 1884:

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Kieran Owens,

It is interesting to note that, as painters of Arab subjects, both Mihály Munkácsy and Eduard Charlemont were Jewish artists.

Mark Wilson,

Kieran - I considered Mihály Munkácsy as well as he was mentioned both in Mann's Wiki and in Forbes-Robertson's introduction. But I wasn't sure as to whether he put on formal life drawing classes in the same way that I knew the Académie Julian did or whether studying with him would be more one-to-one. The two pictures here, very similar but from different angles, are clearly from a formal class. A date of 1880 might tie in more with Munkácsy though.

Kieran Owens,

Between 1870 and 1900, other students of Mihály Munkácsy were (with a rough start date of their being with him):

Henry F. Farny (1871)
Julius Agghazy (Gyula Aggházy) (1874)
Bertalan Karlovszky (c.1877)
László Paál (c. 1877)
Fritz von Uhde (1879)
Charles Dater Weldon (1880-1882)
William Turner Dannat (c. 1879)
Oscar Rex (1881)
Hans Temple (1884) -
Jozsef Rippl-Rónai (1887)
Artúr Lajos Halmi (c.1892)

Some of these artists spent one to two years in Munkácsy's studio, so it is reasonable to assume that he would have taught them painting and techniques while there. One site says of him:

"After settling in Paris, Mihály Munkácsy welcomed the Hungarian painting students in his studio. In 1882 he founded the prize bearing his name for them. He was a generous patron, and the amount of the scholarship for one year was six thousand francs."

See my post of 5 June recommending closure of this discussion. It has been held open to allow for further details to emerge of the friendship between the artists John Leslie Thomson and George Frederick Munn. Some worthwhile background has been explored. And Marcie (20 Sept) has come up with a very similar painting.

The collection has confirmed that they are very happy for the painting to be attributed to George Frederick Munn. On this basis I recommend that we close the discussion.