Portrait of an Exceptional Woman

Photogravure portrait of Frau Muthesius by James Craig Annan, acquired by the Hunterian in 2019 with an NFA grant of £225.

Singer, author, champion of artistic dress – Anna Muthesius (1870–1961) was a multi-talented modern woman. Her beauty and elegance are brilliantly captured in this photogravure portrait.

Photogravure portrait of Frau Muthesius by James Craig Annan

Photogravure portrait of Frau Muthesius by James Craig Annan

Born Anna Trippenbach in what is now Saxony-Anhalt, she married the German architect Hermann Muthesius (1861-1927), who became cultural attaché at the German embassy in London. Anna was an important artistic figure in her own right. Through Hermann’s research into modern British architecture, the couple became good friends of the Glasgow architect Charles Rennie Mackintosh (1868-1928) and his artist wife Margaret Macdonald Mackintosh (1864-1933). Mackintosh was godfather to their son, Friedrich Eckart, and the two couples corresponded and stayed as guests at each other’s houses. On one visit, Mackintosh left behind a pair of socks – Anna Muthesius said she knew they must be his because ‘they could only belong to some beautiful Scottish legs’!

Surviving letters show that Anna and Hermann planned to stay with the Mackintoshes in Glasgow in June 1903, and it may have been on this occasion that Frau Muthesius visited the Sauchiehall Street studio of portrait photographer James Craig Annan (1864–1946). In the same year, she published a book, Das Eigenkleid der Frau (Woman’s Own Dress), where she argued that clothing should be adapted to the individual wearer and that women should design their own clothes and not be dictated to by Paris fashions. It seems likely, therefore, that the feathered hat and high-collared cape in Annan’s portrait were designed – and perhaps even made – by Frau Muthesius herself.

Annan had an international reputation as a photographer. His work was exhibited in Europe and America, and a number of his images – including this one – were published in the important photographic journal Camera Work. Photogravure is a printing process that involves etching a photographic image onto metal and then taking an impression from the inked plate. The result has a soft, rich, velvety quality, rather like a charcoal drawing. Annan learned the process from Karel Klic (1841-1926), in Vienna in 1883, and became one of its leading exponents.


Design for a silver fork and spoon by Charles Rennie Mackintosh

Annan’s portrait of Frau Muthesius joins a small group of related items in the Hunterian’s collection. Among these is Mackintosh’s design for a silver fork and spoon, made as a gift for his godson Friedrich Eckart Muthesius in 1904.


Photograph of a lost painting of Anna Muthesius by Francis Newbery

Also in the collection is a monochrome photograph of a lost painting of Frau Muthesius by Francis Newbery (1855-1946). More informal than Annan’s studio-based portrait, it shows her bending over her sewing. Recalling this painting in 1962, Newbery’s daughter described the sitter as ‘exotically beautiful’ and remembered that she was wearing a ‘green and blue Javanese wax print – a real innovation’. The Annan portrait is an equally memorable image of this exceptional woman, who expressed her personality through her remarkable clothes.

Joseph Sharples,
Curator of Mackintosh Collections
The Hunterian, University of Glasgow

Stanley William Hayter at the Hunterian

Thirty-two prints, two drawings and three portfolios by Stanley William Hayter acquired by the Hunterian between 1991 and 2012 with nine NFA grants totalling £14,602.

Over the past 15 years I have been slowly adding to the Hunterian’s holding of prints by Stanley William Hayter (1901-1988), a scientist turned painter-engraver whom I was lucky enough to know at the end of his influential career. Hayter was born in London but in 1926 he settled in Paris. He was passionately interested in printmaking but critical of the disjunction between the work of modernist painters and the backward-looking artists of the ‘etching revival’, whose prints sometimes sold for high prices but which he regarded as pale imitations of older masters of etching, especially Whistler. So he took up the line-engraver’s defunct tool, the burin, and turned its forward-facing point into an instrument of surrealist art. He formed a studio called Atelier 17, where he taught until his death in 1988, and soon had collaborators for his investigations into the potential of printmaking. Many of the greatest names in 20th-century art were induced to make prints by Hayter’s dynamic personality.

Engraving, 'Cette main saisit la terre..' from 'L'Apocalypse', 1931, by Stanley William Hayter

Engraving, ‘Cette main saisit la terre..’ from ‘L’Apocalypse’, 1931, by Stanley William Hayter. Reproduced by permission of the artist’s estate.


Hayter's 'Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse' with Hugnet's Surrealist text, 1932

Hayter’s ‘Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse’ with Hugnet’s Surrealist text, 1932. Reproduced by permission of the artist’s estate.

Although we have no current plans for an exhibition, it has been possible to acquire, thanks to support from the National Fund for Acquisitions, a significant group of works from the 1930s and 1940s: thirty-two prints, two drawings and three important Surrealist portfolios. The six menacing landscape prints of the Paysages urbains of 1930 display the ‘whiplash’ burin line for which Hayter was famous; the larger prints of the Apocalypse of 1931 were accompanied by verses by Georges Hugnet (1906-1974), a poet who also collaborated with Picasso and Miró.

'Facile proie', Eluard's poem which accompanies the eight engravings by Hayter, 1938

‘Facile proie’, Eluard’s poem which accompanies the eight engravings by Hayter, 1938. Reproduced by permission of the artist’s estate.


Facile Proie, Le Distrait

Engraving, ‘Le Distrait’ by Hayter from ‘Facile Proie’ by Eluard. Reproduced by permission of the artist’s estate.

Another poet, Paul Eluard (1895-1952), was visiting Hayter in 1938 when he was producing a series of 8 cruel figure and landscape prints inspired by the horrors of the Spanish Civil War and Eluard addressed to Hayter the poem Facile proie which accompanies them. This set was bought for the Hunterian, in partnership with the NFA, by a West of Scotland collector to whom we are also extremely grateful.


Peter Black
The Hunterian


From Outer Space to Museum Case: a Whiff of the Strange and Exotic

Two fragments of iron meteorite from Canyon Diablo Meteor Crater, Arizona, acquired by Leisure and Culture Dundee in 1983 with an NFA grant of £170.97; polished slice of meteorite from Kainsaz, Russia, 13 September 1937, acquired by the Hunterian in 2009 with an NFA grant of £164.77; fragment of Strathmore meteorite, 3 December 1917, acquired by Leisure and Culture Dundee in 2011 with an NFA grant of £2,000.

There is no question that meteorites have more than a whiff of the strange and exotic about them – and one or two types of meteorite actually do smell! As mankind explores further and further into space and discovers more and more about the origins of the Solar System and the Universe, so the interest in acquiring and studying meteorites has increased and this has led to an increasing awareness by the public.

In response to this, museums are re-evaluating, strengthening and expanding their meteorite collections and the support of the National Fund for Acquisitions is absolutely vital to achieving this goal. The increasing popularity of meteorites has led to a vigorous market in buying and selling these stones and this has resulted in an increase in their value. Some specific types of meteorites can fetch very high prices indeed and this can put them out of the range of most museum budgets. It has been my good fortune, as expert adviser to the NFA, to be involved in the two most recent acquisitions at auction of specimens by the Hunterian in Glasgow and Leisure and Culture Dundee.

Strathmore meteorite

Fragment of the Strathmore meteorite

The specimen bought by Dundee is of particular note as it was a small fragment of the Strathmore meteorite which fell in the Blairgowrie/Coupar Angus area in 1917 and is one of the best documented of the four known Scottish falls. At the time of writing, the fragment is on display at the Mills Observatory in Dundee along with other meteorites, including one on loan from National Museums Scotland. In supporting these bids I was keen to both promote the expansion of these meteorite collections and to see a wider public appreciation of these strange but wonderful objects.

Peter Davidson
Curator of Mineralogy and Expert Adviser to the NFA
National Museums Scotland