Thursday, April 20, 2017

John J. A. Murphy and the Mechanical Figure

John J.A. Murphy’s (1888 - 1967) work has strong alliances with the Cubist art movement he would have seen in Europe. His work has close affinities with the work of Fernand Leger, Picasso, and some of the later German Expressionist printmakers like Heckel and Schmidt-Rotloff.
An impressive element of Murphy’s work is the wonderful concrete-block look of his figures and the robotically-massive presence they have. The subjects vary from religious to athletic competitions and male wrestling. The weight of these figures fills his compositions to a near-bursting, and lets us feel as though we are a part of the activities taking place.
Murphy’s work fill our eyes with linear, built-up male figures who represent all things masculine and power-filled. They roll around the picture plane and struggle amongst themselves for dominance, but ultimately fail since all the figures are equally weighted. The effect though is a tour de force of characters that endlessly fight for our attention. The result is a visual exhilaration. Murphy’s work is terrific.
Murphy was born in Boston, Massachusetts. He studied art at the Boston Museum of Fine Arts, and the Art Students League, in New York City.
Murphy first worked as a portrait painter and then moved to London to be a painter’s assistant to Frank Brangwyn.

During WWI, he served in the Army Corps of Engineers’ camouflage section in France, and illustrated posters.
When he returned to New York in 1921 he exhibited his prints at Keppel's Gallery and Walker Galleries, in New York; and exhibited at the Leicester Gallery, in London.
He also designed book illustrations and typography.

Dictionary of American Painters, Sculptors and Engravers
Fellow, the Metropolitan Museum of Art
Member, the Guild of Free Lance Artists
Who’s Who in American Art

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