From CONNECTICUT MAGAZINE 8 (1904). page 775.
MUNGER—UPON WHOM THE GOVERNMENTS AND
speaking of Artist Munger’s works the President of the Luxembourg Gallery once
remarked, “They do not resemble any other artist’s of the present day.” While
he was living in
In January, 1903, in his
Gilbert Munger, “Painter, poet, patriot,” as a dear friend cherishes him, has his place, and will always
hold it, amid the company of clear- visioned souls who see things as they are and work and never tire in the task of staying friendly visions for their own delight and the joy of those who pass.
ures, sunny meadows and fern. bordered brooks, was God’s messenger who awakened in a mother heart the understanding of—“The great harmony that reigns. In what the Spirit of the world contains.’’ And this strong soul was born.
Homestead is yet a well-preserved and picturesque old house, with large chimney
and sloping roof, and fronts the “
While Gilbert was
yet a boy the family removed to
encourage him and allow him to follow his own inclinations toward an artistic
career. The tutor’s advice was considered, and, at the age of thirteen, Gilbert
became the pupil of a natural history and landscape engraver at
During the following five years he was principally employed in engraving large plates of plants, birds, fish, reptiles, portraits and landscapes, published by the government in connection with the exploring expedition of Commodore Wilkes, and for Professor Louis Agassiz’s works and the works for the Smithsonian Institute.
Although his time was thus busily occupied, he never renounced his intention of becoming a land- scape painter, and adopted engraving only as a means to that end.
He read Ruskins’ works, and purchased a copy of J. D. Harding’s drawing-book. Rising in the sum-
mer months at four o’clock, he hastened, sketch-book in hand, to the woods, and made careful studies of trees till eight o’clock. Then back to his engraver’s desk from nine till five. After that, three more hours in the woods with pencil and paper. Could any other profession have been successful to such an enthusiast?
period he went, on one occasion, to the atelier of a sculptor (from
Aside from some technical points gathered now and then from seeing other artists at their work, Nature has been his only teacher.
And now came the great changes caused by the outbreak of the rebellion. Appropriations for art and sciences—the luxuries of a nation—had to he withdrawn, and Mr. Munger was thrown out of employment, for no private firms would publish such work as he produced. He was offered and accepted a position as engineer in the Federal Army, but the new work was not congenial. the imaginative artist temperament being “cribbed, cabined and confined,’’ when all his duties were comprised in the mechanical labors of the military engineer. However, he studied hard to fit himself for his new calling, with such success that he became constructing engineer.
During the four
years’ war, he was engaged upon the field fortifications around
NEAR SAINT-GERMAIN—FROM PAINTING BY GILBERT MUNGER
escaped the horrors of the battlefield.
When peace was declared and the vast army disbanded, to return to their homes, Mr. Munger also laid down his arms and resigned his commission, much against the advice of his friends.
He was at last to
follow in earnest the career his boyish fancy had chosen. Taking a studio in
In the vast mountain region which divides the Continent, he devoted himself to the close study of nature’s grand effects. And the work he did at that time was the most careful and conscientious interpretation of nature—fine in color and strong in artistic values. The work of those days was the most interesting of that of any period of his life, as it was abso- lutely sincere and not influenced by the art of any other country. It was spontaneous and full of the most careful feeling for truth and nature.
One season was
passed amid the extinct volcanoes of
He in due time
accepted their counsel. Arrived in
He did not
exhibit during his first year in
Utah” ; to Manchester, “A Glimpse of the Pacific” and “Lake Cornisk’; to Newcastle-on-Tyne, “Woodland Streams’’ and “Herring Fleet,’’ and to Liverpool, “Great Salt Lake.”
Seven of these
pictures were sold. His large picture, ‘‘King Arthur’s Castle,
At this time, the
Fine Art Society,
His work was somewhat changed at this period, as he had been study-
BORDER FOREST OF FONTAINBLEAU—FROM PAINTING BY GILBERT MUNGER
|MINNEHAHA—FROM PAINTING BY GILBERT MUNGER|
ing the great
galleries of Europe and
The following was
published in the
For ten years Mr.
sensation and establishing his fame in
He was a fine
colorist and strong in the organic principles of his art, and possessed of a
scientific knowledge of the chemistry of color.
To analyze the character of this man were a difficult task, lie was endowed with rare gifts of mind, heart and soul. He had an extremely sensitive and poetic nature, responsive alike to joy in its fullest measure or deep sadness.
A mysterious sadness, caused by a denial of his dearest hope in earlier days, was locked securely within, and he and it dwelt on alone, since so it must be, to the end of life. Nearest friends and family never trespassed there. Only increasing and increasing toil told how valiantly it was being guarded from even sympathizing scrutiny. Yet, on the other hand, his strong personality, buoyed up by his delighted consciousness of truth and reverence for nature, together with a keen sense of humor kept alive an enthusiasm in him which thrilled men to their best efforts.
He was in every sense a born artist. His art was a philosophy. He looked upon landscape as the environment of men, and tried to paint the quality of nature which suggests and appeals to the mind. He succeeded in conveying in his art the emotion he himself experienced before Nature. He put poetry into desolate and saddening landscapes. He had to paint to express his great love for Nature.
He also wrote
exceedingly well— the most successful of his writings was a comedy in three
acts, entitled ‘‘Madelaine Marston.’’ It was brought out in Theatre Royal, Hay
Socially he was possessed of a charm all his own. He was delightfully full of fun at times, and would entertain a bevy of girls in the most refined and charming way. lie was a rare story-teller, possessed of an exquisite ‘‘light touch’’ in the matter of polite small talk, and a much - sought - after dinner - party man.
He took a lively interest in polities and affairs, and liked to know men of action. He was a mild user of tobacco. He, like Turner, would accept one glass of vine, and refuse the second. He rarely called upon other artists in their studios.
He was fond of little children.
One day he was painting on the dyke up in Cazenovia, N. Y. A little girl came upon him quietly, with a babe in her arms, and said: “Are you taking a ‘paintin’ lesson?’’ ‘‘Yes, little girl; I’m taking a painting lesson.” The next (lay she came again, and said: “I see you are taking another one.” “Yes, I’m taking another one.’’ This little incident, Mr. Munger thought was lovely
While Mr. Munger was painting the large “Cazenovia Cornfield,” an Irishman of the old-school type
often came and looked over his shoulder. Mr. Williams, whose guest Mr. Munger was, relates the incident: “I met Jerry one evening and said to him: ‘Mr. Munger is a hard-working man.’ Jerry said: ‘I never saw the bate of him, lie works with his head, his mind, his hands and his eyes, and. lies working ‘em all to onct’.’’
Mr. Munger was a man of refined tastes and high artistic culture. A great student, and a man of high ambitions. And to those whose privilege it was to know him thoroughly, lie was always a dear friend and always a gentleman.
That he was not more universally known was due to the fact that he did comparatively little exhibiting, his pictures being sold in advance and sent direct to their owners. His success in the sale of his pictures was phenomenal, always receiving flattering sums, a few as high as $5,000 each.
He was a favorite with the Duke of Saxe-Coburg—one of whose treasures was a Munger subject which hangs in his library, and for the excellence of which he conferred upon him the honor of knighthood. He has been decorated by nine different countries:
These honors cannot be secured through influence, but are awarded on merit alone. They grant the
wearer many privileges and admit him to all court functions.
“one of the reasons for my own stay, now prolonged since 1877, and the reason with which I am fond of appeasing my own patriotism whenever it urges my return to the blue skies of my native country, is the increase of knowledge and the sure means of growth in art everywhere at hand in these old lands.
is in Europe, rather than in
“The gratifying measure of success which has greeted my humble efforts, in
these later years, is due, I am sure, to having found the way to my own style
through a number of experiments, and a series of careful observations, which I
should not have been able to make if settled at home. There is a
crystallization of style in paintings as in literature. It is, of course, a
slow process; and in my own case is the fruit of long seasons of painting in
tile foothills of our own Rocky Mountains, the shadow of Il Capitan in tile
Yosemite, and of
the lagoons of
He had a studio at New York in The “Valencia,’’ Fifty-ninth street, for a few years —and later, one at Washington, at which place he was working on devotedly till he fell asleep at last, too weary to waken. lie has left some two score of pictures, which were yet in his own possession, and which will doubtless eventually find their way into some of our national galleries.