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John Francis Murphy

Artwork Details

John Francis Murphy
oil on canvas
18 ¼ in x 21 ½ in x 3 ¼ in (46.36 cm x 54.61 cm x 8.25 cm)
Bequest of Carl F. Clarke


March 28 2009
Neglected or untouched landscapes were appealing subjects for many American artists in the decades following the Civil War; during this time the United States was quickly transforming from a rural to an urban society, and there was an increasing nostalgia for places untouched by man. Murphy, like other Tonalist painters, rejected the precisely executed and expansive panoramic vistas of the earlier Hudson River school artists. Instead he offered the viewer a close, intimate view of nature that invites contemplative reflection. Murphy was a keen observer of the wilderness, as the meticulously crafted Landscape with its flat terrain and spindly trees attests. The scuffed brushstrokes convey the rugged texture of the marshy landscape, while the muted tonalities of blue and grey evoke the fresh, crisp air. Murphy often returned to the same subjects, even repeating the same compositional formats. Unlike his fellow American landscape painters, such as Frederic Edwin Church and George Inness, he was not an avid traveler; most of his landscapes are based on views of the Catskill Mountains accessible from his home in Arktown, New York.

Subject Matter:

Painted in overall tones of blues, greens and grays, this landscape represents the growing nostalgia for untamed, natural land, which many 19th century American artists, like Murphy, were feeling during a time when the Industrial Revolution brought about the clearing of enormous areas of land.

Physical Description:

Landscape of flat terrain; water, perhaps a small stream, in the foreground; four leafless trees (two large, two small) right of center, and two leafless trees left of center, below a cloud-filled sky.

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