Murch Stories - Artists
Arthur Murch – War Artist Australia (1902–1989)
Arthur Murch was born on 8th July 1902 in Croydon, Sydney, Australia. He was the second of three children.
His father James, a carpenter, and mother Caroline Elizabeth (Holman), were both British Methodists with strong
views despising materialism and drink. They lived very frugal lives and were devoted to their family and work.
They instilled in Arthur the ability to be self-sufficient with a strong work ethic. He was taught to create and
build anything he needed and this included his own false teeth. Arthur enrolled at Sydney Technical High school
at fifteen and became an apprentice at a sheet metal factory called John Heine & Son Ltd.. It was here that he
suffered an injury to his eye, suffering a splinter in the eye that later affected his vision. However, his talents at
sketching were apparent and encouraged to progress this talent, in 1920, he enrolled part time at the Royal Art
Society. In 1924 he studied sculpture in classes under Rayner Hoff at East Sydney Technical College. At this
time he then gave up his career as an engineering draughtsman. He was very interested in the impressionistic
artists at the time, such as Antonio Dattilo-Rubbo, and having decided that art was the career he would pursue,
he then built a studio in James and Caroline’s garden. Significantly in 1925 he won the New South Wales Society
of Artists’ travelling scholarship and then followed periods in Paris at the Académie Julian, in London at Chelsea
Polytechnic and then in Italy. His time in Italy led him to an interest in Renaissance masters. He described this
freedom to discover art as “as if I were a pilgrim traversing the years”. He returned to Sydney in 1927 and took
the role of assistant to George Lambert. They worked very closely together and Lambert described Murch later as a ‘pocket Hercules’ with his powerful physique despite being a diminutive man. They worked together until 1930 when Lambert died. They had worked on some notable pieces including a sculpture of the unknown soldier for St. Mary’s Cathedral. In the 1930’s, during Sydneys depression, he embraced the bohemian art world and began painting. From a cottage in Thirroul he experimenting with classical and Renaissance techniques using Australian people and landscapes and developed his unique style.
Following his travels he settled in England in 1936. He painted one of his most memorable images ‘Leda’ by candlelight as he was too poor to pay his bills and his electricity had been disconnected. In 1938 he created decorations for the Australian Wool Pavilion at the Glasgow Empire Exhibition. On his return to Sydney he married Gloria Mavis Counsell in 1940 and had a son. They moved to Sydneys northen beaches as life was cheaper there.
When Japan joined the war he was appointed an official war artist in 1942, however, this finished when he became unwell in 1943. He was paid 2 guineas per day and was an officer without rank with his painting materials supplied by the Memorial. He was due to paint portraits of officers in Melbourne such as the Naval Chief of Staff and Air Chief of Staff, however, due to their busy schedules this was impossible and he was sent north to the military bases to paint the aftermath of the Darwin bombings.
Murch worked with a unit of photographers from October and with the RAAF,
however, the damp conditions proved difficult. He was also restricted from
taking notes or photographs which he felt was limiting his artistic freedom.
While Murch was in Darwin he became seriously ill with streptococci infection
and was returned to Sydney where he continued his painting and completed
45 paintings and sketches for the Memorial Collection however, his appointment
was terminated in May 1943.
He won the Archibald Prize in 1949 with a portrait of Bonar Dunlop. He taught at Avalon, East Sydney Technical College and Hermannsburg. Sadly his faculties failed as he grew older. Following his wife and sons deaths he survived until 1989 but sadly died on the 23rd September.
His work is held in the National Gallery of Australia and many other Australian galleries. There is no doubt that Arthur Murch was an artist and sculpture of inspirational quality and ability. His versatility in both painting and sculpture can be seen in his equestrian sculptures and portraits.
Walter Tandy Murch - Canadian Artist
Walter Tandy Murch was born in 1907 in Toronto. He was the son of Clara Louise Tandy and her husband Walter Murch, who was a jeweller. He studied architectural drafting and woodwork at the Technical High School in Toronto. He then went on to study at the Ontario College of Art from 1924-27 with Arthur Lismer. Walter studied at the Grand Central School of Art in New York City, studying with Arshile Gorky, after which he studied with Von Schlegel and K H Miller at the Art Students League. Walter married Katherine Louise Scott in 1930.
Walter became an art teacher and painter. But initially from 1930-33 he designed stained glass windows in New York city for Mantague Castle Inc. along with other work in order to support his family. He then embarked on a trip to Mexico to paint and after an extensive period returned to New York to paint murals, in the meantime designing shop and store windows for a salary. He also created illustrations for magazines such as Fortune and Scientific American.
A solo exhibition finally launched him at the Betty Parsons’ Wakefield Gallery in 1941 and following this Betty Parsons acted as his main dealer. In 1947 Walter finally became a U.S citizen.
His paintings were primarily of still life subjects including broken dolls, tools and machine parts and scientific equipment mingled with fruit, bread and fragments of rock as if seen through frosted glass. He began teaching at the Pratt Institute in the 1950’s, along with the Boston University, Yaddo and Skowhegan in the summer months.
His style was a combination of realism and abstraction and the images that appear as if painted through frosted glass have been compared to 18th century painters such as Chardin.
His first major retrospective was presented in 1966 at the Rhode Island School of Design.
Walter Tandy Murch died on December 11, 1967 in New York City of a heart attack. He is the father of celebrated film editor Walter Murch.