The Müller family of Airolo and Hospental, Switzerland in the 1870s. The artist’s parents Alois and Genovefa Müller are standing in the back row, second and third from the left. Ten of their children surround them, one of whom possibly the boy front row second from the left is the future artist.

The portraits which Muller-Ury painted of his family over the course of his career vary in style and size, and it appears he did not paint every member. He painted a portrait of his oldest brother, Emilio, when still a student, and evidently he painted his mother and the portrait of his maternal grandfather, Felice Lombardi, when his talents were still developing. He presumably painted this latter portrait posthumously in 1881 from a photograph. The first portrait he painted which shows his fast technical development is his 1882 portrait of his father Alois Müller, painted when he was just 20, and probably painted just after his return from the Royal Academy in Munich.

Family photograph taken after the marriage of Adelina Müller to Ernst Gähler of Herisau in 1894. From Left to right: standing, Alois Müller, Alpnachstad; Ida Gähler, the groom’s sister from Herisau; Eduardo Müller, at that time of the Furka; Adelina and Ernst Gähler-Müller of Herisau; seated, Berta Müller-Britschgy of Alpnachstad; Berta Müller of Hospental/Lucerne, sister of the bride; Genovefa Müller-Lombardi, mother of the bride, of Hospental.

Thereafter, he is known to have painted members of his family at various times up until 1914: for example, his prettiest sister, Adelina, and another younger sister Berta, in 1888; but interestingly, his mother was only painted for the second time in 1905, a picture in the style of “Rembrandt’s Mother”, probably because he had painted her before and there was another portrait of her as a much younger woman painted by an anonymous Swiss artist in the ancestral Müllerhaus which at some point was given to her daughter Adelina, who was married and living in Herisau, Canton Appenzell.

One of the largest portraits he painted was of his brother Luigi Müller, a hotelier in Alpnachstad, but this was painted posthumously from a photograph in 1914, and there is evidence surviving that he sent this to Switzerland from New York rolled up, and reworked the canvas partially on revisiting Switzerland in 1919 or 1920. There are two further portraits of his father, Alois Müller, one painted immediately after his father’s death, and another from 1905, based on this one, which he gave immediately to the Historisches Museum von Uri, Altdorf along with a portrait of his paternal uncle Josef.

He certainly painted his brothers Eduardo and Gustavo in the early 20th century, and his sister Lina with a cat when still a teenager, but it does seem somewhat odd that he appears never to have painted those of his eighteen siblings who lived into the twentieth century, for example, his oldest sister Emma, or his brothers Silvio or Otto. Interestingly, he painted a portrait of his brother Alberto’s wife Esther shortly after their marriage, a fine large portrait, but he never painted Alberto himself; and he never painted their four children. Yet he was prevailed upon to paint a portrait of his sister-in-law Berta Müller-Britschgy in 1894 for her mother, and her daughter Ines, his niece, hurriedly, in the new century. The last of the portraits he seems to have painted of his family was that of his mother, Genovefa at the end of her life, probably around 1918-20; having borne eighteen children, this depiction of his mother remained in his possession until he died in 1947.