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Arthur George Murphy
Birth Date: 
Birth Place: 
Tiffin, OH
Death Date: 
Death Place: 
Old Saybrook, CT
An American painter and lithographer, Arthur George Murphy was born in 1906 in Tiffin, Ohio, near Cleveland. His mother, an amateur painter, probably inspired his interest in art. As a teenager Murphy took a correspondence course in illustration and cartooning. After graduating from high school in 1924 he worked as a freelance illustrator and cartoonist, and by 1926 Murphy was working in the art department of the Central Press Association in Cleveland while taking evening art classes at the Cleveland School of Art. In 1928 he moved to New York City where he studied at the Art Students League under Boardman Robinson (1876-1952) and George Bridgeman (1864-1943). Murphy worked as a cartoonist in the art department of the Associated Press in New York City, with his work appearing in newspapers in New York and Chicago. He moved to San Francisco in 1930. While studying at the California School of Fine Arts (now the San Francisco Art Institute), Murphy met Diego Rivera (1886-1957), who became a major influence on his art and led him to pursue mural painting. Murphy studied at the Broadmoor Art Academy in Colorado Springs in the summer of 1932 and the Carmelita Art School in Pasadena in 1933. He exhibited his charcoal mural studies in Los Angeles in 1932 and in Pasadena in 1933. The following year Murphy worked as a muralist for the Public Works of Art Project of the U.S. Treasury Department, and exhibited his only known completed mural, Negro Musicians (now lost) at the Public Works of Art Project exhibition in Southern California in 1934. Murphy returned to the Broadmoor Art Academy during the summer in 1934, where he learned lithography from his former teacher Boardman Robinson. Murphy’s first prints were inspired by a trip to Mexico. He exhibited prints and charcoal drawings in San Francisco later in 1934. From 1935-41, he was employed by the Federal Art Project (FAP) of the Works Progress Administration. In return for his modest stipend, the FAP required him to work on art full time. His first lithographs were part of his “Bridge Builders” series, depicting the construction of the Golden Gate and San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridges. Later he created prints depicting dancers, rodeo riders and circus performers. Murphy eventually created 91 lithographs for the FAP. He also produced numerous watercolors while working under the Program. Murphy showed his works in the San Francisco Art Association’s 1937 exhibition and at the de Young Museum in 1939. In 1941 the San Francisco Museum of Art (now the SF MOMA) mounted a solo exhibition of 41 of his oils, lithographs and watercolors. Drafted into the Army in 1943, Murphy served as war artist in the South Pacific. He married Maxine Anne Appleby in Sydney, Australia in 1946 and then settled in Connecticut, taught art in New Haven and turned to oil painting. Three Connecticut museums showed a retrospective exhibiting of his works in 1986. He died in Old Saybrook, CT in 1991. (Rev. TNB 12/2013) Selected bibliography: Murphy, Arthur. Arthur Murphy: Prints and Drawings. Exhibition catalog. Essay by James Wechsler. New York: Mary Ryan Gallery, 1993. Seaton, Elizabeth. WPA Federal Art Project—Printmaking in California 1935-1943. San Francisco: The Book Club of California, 2005.