00:00
/
00:00
Unknown artist
Portrait of Joseph McMullen
around 1880

Joseph McMullen immigrated to Canada from Ireland around 1850-1855 and married Anne Johnson, also Irish, in Toronto in 1856. They had two children, Henry (1857) and William (1859). In the early 1860s, the McMullens moved to the Verona area, north of Kingston, where Joseph was originally a general store merchant. In 1874, their son William drowned in Rock Lake, which may account for Anne McMullen’s apparent mourning wear. The couple is humble yet fashionable in their clothing choices. Anne McMullen’s high-standing collar, jet earrings, ribbon headdress and embroidered neck trim are typical of the Victorian 1880s. That the couple chose to have their portraits painted, rather than photographed, speaks to the value still attached to oil portraiture in the photographic era. The portraits establish the McMullens as members of a rising business class, in prosperous small-town Ontario. During their lifetime, Verona (known as Richardson) was a centre of commerce and an important transit point, with hotels and other establishments. Like many of these historical buildings, the McMullen general store still exists today as a private home. Sensitively painted by an unknown and possibly itinerant artist, both portraits exude a warmth of personality, with the sitters directly engaging the viewer.

 
Unknown artist
Portrait of Joseph McMullen
around 1880
Oil on canvas
60.5 x 49.8 cm
Gift of Keith R. McMullen, 2017
60-008.01

Subscribe to our “This Week at Agnes” e-newsletter to stay abreast of events, news and opportunities at the art museum.