When I first wrote about Mrs McCulloch I knew I only had part of the story but I had little idea of how much there would be to add. Some of you left comments identifying pictures in the photographs; there was even some wild speculation about the mysterious aspects of Mrs McCulloch’s life. The best response was from David Wright of Australia who shared with me his history of the Smith family. (Just pause for a moment and think of the difficulties involved in doing genealogical research on a family named Smith.) Thanks to him and others a few of the blanks have been filled in, enough for me to want to do a second post.
The first thing to mention is the house.
This was it the morning after what I assume must have been a flying bomb incident in February 1944.
The house next door has been completely destroyed but it looks like there was enough of number 184 Queens Gate left for the structure to have been repaired and inhabited after the war. This explains why we were eventually sent the cuttings from the Art Journal and the photograph of Mrs McCulloch which started me off on the trail.
Look back for a moment at one of those pictures:
Mrs McCulloch with some of her husband’s pictures. Here are a couple of them:
The Potato Gatherers by Julien Bastien Lepage.
George McCulloch himself painted in a relaxed pose by John Singer Sargent. You’ll also see a self portrait by Whistler in the right hand corner of the photograph.
Here is a view of the dining room again:
And here are those lions I was interested in:
The Lions at home by Rosa Bonheur.
And the picture on the right:
The setting sun by Adrian Stokes.
When Mr McCulloch died the pictures were all catalogued for one big sale. The catalogue is here.
There are over three hundred more, but here are some that I found interesting:
On his holidays, a portrait of Alexander, Mrs McCulloch’s son also by John Singer Sargent who went on holiday to Norway with the family in 1901.
Master Baby by Sir William Quiller Orchardson, which can also be seen in the photographs of Mrs McCulloch in the original post.
And just for the fun of it, Vae Victis by Arthur Hacker, one of those overheated semi-imaginary views of the Middle East which were popular as British tourists ventured into the Ottoman Empire. An Alma Tadema style Ottoman Empire.
The lightly clad denizens of this fantasy world were a distinct contrast with the overdressed (by our standards at least) inhabitants of the house in which the paintings hung as seen below.
The lady sitting next to Mrs McCulloch is Fanny Fildes wife of the artist Luke Fildes who is seated on the right. Fildes was a Kensington resident who lived in Melbury Road in the artistic quarter near Leighton House. We’ll come back to him one day in his own right. The group has been posed in front of one of Fildes’ own paintings.
“An alfresco toilet.”, an everyday view of Venetian life.
Those must have been the relatively carefree days of Mrs McCulloch’s life in the art world, before her husband’s death and the Great War. The information provided by David Wright casts some light on her earlier days in Australia before her second marriage. If you remember she was born Mary Agnes Smith and had come to Australia from Nottinghamshire with her parents in 1874. She married James Mayger in 1879.
In the first post I repeated the account that she herself later gave, that Mayger was killed in a fall from a horse. However it seems that Mayger actually died of a condition related to his alcoholism. Mary and James had separated and she left him to be looked after by her younger sister Susan and her family in Sydney. He died of cirrhosis of the liver in 1892. Mary remained in Melbourne and met up with her former employer George McCulloch. She and the baby Alexander left Australia in 1890 with McCulloch and went to live with him as his housekeeper in Walton Street, Chelsea where they appear on the 1891 census.
I suppose this version of events is more ambiguous and open to interpretation than the later version but you can’t altogether blame a young woman for leaving a husband who had become a drunk seeking to improve her circumstances (and those of her and James Mayger’s son) by making a life with someone else.
Mary and George were married in 1893 and went on a “grand tour” while 184 Queen’s Gate was being built. On their return they took up their life as wealthy art patrons and collectors.
Mrs McCulloch by then Mrs Michie was awarded the CBE for her hospital work in the Great War. She sold the Queen’s Gate house in 1924 by which time she was already living in Surrey. She lived to see the end of World War 2, dying in November 1945.
Let’s take one more look at her in a coloured photograph from her Australian days:
She looks to me as if she was already thinking that she still had plenty to do in her life.
Thanks to David Wright who supplied the pictures of the young Mary Mayger and the group photo (and his excellent history of the Smith family from which I have taken the biographical information).
Thanks to Judith Finnamore of Westminster City Archives for a bigger version of the bomb damage photo. And thanks to everyone who identified pictures.
I think this wraps it up for Mrs McCulloch as far as I’m concerned. But you never know what might arrive in my inbox in the future. I still haven’t seen an image of the portrait of Mrs McCulloch by Dagnan-Bouveret which is listed in the catalogue: ” three quarter figure seated to right, her left hand resting on the arm of the chair.Three quarter profile. Green fur trimmed dress. Dark background” (1900). Anyone know where that one is hanging?
Postscript to the postscript
David Wright came through again. Thanks David