Papal Portraits and Other Religious | Müller Family and Other Relatives |Unknown Sitters


The artist in 1914, photographed by himself. His plate camera in its pigskin travelling case and the tripod still exist in the Muller-Ury Stiftung.

Muller-Ury achieved success and fame as a portrait painter at the end of the 19th and first half of the 20th centuries, and all other genres of painting were secondary in his career. The catalogue of portraits below displays works currently known to the present editor from all periods of his career in alphabetical order by the surname of the sitter as it would have been when he received the commission or undertook to paint them. For some sitters there are multiple works, some autograph copies of the same portrait (for example, Lord Strathcona, James J. Hill and J. Pierpont Morgan), but for others several portraits were painted over a period of years (for example, Carlotta Havemeyer, Joseph Duveen, and Jessica Dragonette). Sometimes it has been difficult to be entirely sure of the identity of the sitter and these portraits have been placed in a separate category of Unknown Sitters; Papal Portraits and other Religious, and Müller Family portraits have been given their own sections as well. Documented portraits, even when there are no images known, are catalogued here in the hope that they still exist.

Muller-Ury photographed by Blackstone in 1940.

Unfortunately, the artist is not known to have kept a Sitters’ Book and most of his diaries have not survived, so we do not know exactly how many portraits he may actually have painted during his 60 year career – there are presently approximately 600 pictures in the Portrait category of this website – and evidently he rarely had his pictures photographed when he was travelling to execute commissions in American cities outside New York and Los Angeles (even London, UK) where he had studios at one time or another – the exceptions are often Rome and Washington DC – and there are probably hundreds of portraits which are undocumented here with a photograph, line illustration or image of some kind. To this confusion must be added the knowledge that sometimes the artist painted a head of an important sitter (like those catalogued here of General Grant, J. Pierpont Morgan or a Pope) which he kept in his racks and from which he could make other portraits, and sometimes he made direct copies of works so that he could exhibit them some time after the original was collected from his studio by the sitter; for example, the portraits of William Merriam, Helen Hammersmith (Mrs John Baldwin), Emelyn Child and Miss A. Read today in Newport are probably examples of these duplicates. Regrettably, in some cases, he is known to have added additions to the head of an important sitter and even redated a work (for example, the fine head of J. Pierpont Morgan from 1904, which he signed in yellow paint in 1947 over the original signature which is in black, and misremembered the date he painted Morgan as 1910).

A satirical cartoon from the 1890s, a time when puffed sleeves on ladies’ dresses became all the rage and Muller-Ury was famous enough to have his work lampooned.

The editor is aware that for many portraits, even when they are identifiable, perhaps from an old photograph, there may be virtually no information to be gleaned from either the artist’s papers or elsewhere. Some portraits, though very well documented, have simply vanished. For many, even for some of those the editor has been able to trace, no dimensions or details of their provenance etc may be known. In the present state of research, it seems better to publish here what is known, if anything, and hope that more information will eventually come to light.

Biographical details usually precede specific information about a portrait in the Notes section. In the case of some sitters, for example, Chauncey M. Depew and James J. Hill, this information is extensive – and includes information on the artist’s documented association with the sitter – but is nevertheless repeated in every entry for each of their portraits, rather than keep referring the user to this information under one specific portrait.