"Portrait of Sir Thomas Magnuson and Family"

Jonathan Mott Cortland

Certainly one of the oddest painters of the Depressionist School, Cortland was the scion of an old agricultural family which had introduced apples to the Low Countries in the 16th century. Although described as an apple-cheeked pip of a boy, as an adult he became shriveled and withdrew from the world. No matter how he was pressed, he ignored all appeals and shunned social activities, preferring to stay in his converted barn studio drinking cider and turning out a bizarre series of portraits after his return from art school in Rome, where his talent had blossomed. His first painting, "Granny Smith by the Cider-Presse," was quite normal at first, and won him a prize in the portrait category. But after the painting was returned to his studio, the artist added a huge green apple covering the face of the sitter.

Cortland offered no explanation for the odd mutilation of an otherwise excellent canvas. He became increasingly crabby as he got older. Although he still received commissions, which stemmed from the position of his family in the community, it became a race to remove the painting from his studio before the malic mutilation was introduced. In the painting seen here, the coach sent to collect the painting overturned. By the time a replacement had been sent, the damage was done. "How do you like them apples?" Cortland reportedly asked the coachman.

His addiction to hard cider affected his brain, and late in life he became what the villagers called a winesap. When he died in 1697 his family tried to have him interred in the Royal military cemetery at Gravenstein , to which his rank entitled him. The application was turned down on the grounds that Cortland had constantly accused the military of graft and was generally, as the letter of rejection said, rotten to the corps.

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The painting was a generous donation from The Mott's Foundation. "The finest painters in all the land make Mott's donations oh, so grand!"™

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