Untitled Document

Artist Biography

A major figure in the Boston School style of painting and also as a painter in the Tonalist style emanating from Barbizon, France, Herman Murphy did a variety of subject matter beginning with portraits and figure studies and later painting still lifes, a subject that characterized the most successful phase of his career. It is his florals and still life paintings that are in most demand.

Born in Marlboro, Massachusetts, Murphy began his art studies at the Museum School in Boston under Tarbell, Benson and Decamp. Upon completion of his studies in Boston, the artist worked as a map maker for the Nicaraguan Canal Survey, and then spent two years as an illustrator for newspapers and magazines. Murphy then traveled to Paris where he lived for five years and studied at the Académie Julian with Jean-Paul Laurens and Constant from 1891-1896. As a senior pupil, Murphy was elected class massier, which put him in charge of discipline in the studio. It was a prestigious post that was infrequently held by foreigners. During his time in Paris, Murphy was introduced and deeply influenced by the work and achievements of James McNeill Whistler and the Aesthetic Movement. Murphy’s works of this period, which began upon his return from Paris, focused on portraiture and figural studies and took on the genteel, refined palette and simplified graceful compositions he so admired in Whistler’s works. He also created landscapes, working in Massachusetts in Winchester, Cape Cod, and Marblehead, and in Woodstock, New York and Ogunquit, Maine. These works featured quiet tonal schemes and abstractly arrangedcompositions.

In the mid-1910s through the 1920s, Murphy derived inspiration from several trips to the tropics, especially to Puerto Rico. These works reveal a range of brighter, richer colors and looser, more energetic brushwork.

The 1920s through the 1930s was Murphy’s most successful period. It was during this time that he concentrated on producing harmonious still lifes, combining realism with an ideal beauty, like the one depicted in this painting. Delphiniums and Roses is exquisitely depicted with Impressionist style, classical format, sculptural appearance of the featured
subject, and decorative background or table cover patterning. Many of these still lifes, like this one, had beautiful Chinese porcelains, rugs and antiques.

On the completion of his studies in Paris, Murphy settled in Boston, where he became active in a number of Boston artists’ associations including the Copley Society, the Society of Arts and Crafts, Boston, the Guild of Boston Artists, and the Boston Society of Water Color Painters. He exhibited with these groups as well as with the New York Water Color Club. In 1903, Murphy built his home and studio in Winchester, Massachusetts, to which he gave the Celtic name of "Carrig-Rohane." From 1931 to 1937, Murphy taught art at Harvard University in Cambridge, Massachusetts.

Murphy first exhibited his work at the Paris Salon of 1895. In 1898, he had a one-man show in his Boston studio, and the following year showed his hand-carved frames at the Boston Arts and Crafts Society. Like Whistler, Murphy considered the frame an integral part of his artistic statement. In 1903, Murphy, Charles Prendergast, and W. Alfred Thulin began a framing business called Carrig-Rohane, named after Murphy’s home. It was a successful venture they operated until 1917, when it was purchased by Vose Galleries of Boston.

Murphy taught drawing at Harvard’s School of Architecture for six years in addition to teaching numerous summer painting classes on Cape Cod. He was elected an Academician by the National Academy of Design in1934. He was also a member of the National Arts Club, Salmagundi Club, Massachusetts Art Commission, and the Guild of Boston Artists.

Murphy’s paintings can be found in major collections throughout the country, including the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, MA; Fogg Museum, Harvard University, Cambridge, MA; National Academy of Design, New York, NY; New Britain Museum of American Art, New Britain, CT; Springville Museum of Art, Springville, UT; Dallas Museum of Art, Dallas, TX; Dayton Art Institute, Dayton, OH; Art Institute of Chicago, Chicago IL; Saint Louis Art Museum, St. Louis MO; and The Dallas Museum of Art, Dallas,TX.