Hermann Dudley Murphy Armory Show painting rediscovered
Moro Castle, San Juan, ca 1906, Carrig-Rohane frame,
oil on canvas, 41 1/2 x 48" w frame
Hermann Dudley Murphy (1867-1945) had a highly successful career as a painter and craftsman. Appreciated widely for his floral still-lifes and figure paintings influenced by his Boston-school teachers Edmund Tarbell and Frank Benson, Murphy also founded in 1903 the Carrig-Rohane Shop, where with the assistance of Walfred Thulin and Charles Prendergast, he designed and fabricated hand-carved and gilded picture frames--custom-made for individual paintings. Contact with Whistler in Europe influenced his interest in artist-designed frames; Whistler was well-known for his frame designs. Murphy exhibited nationally and internationally, and was elected to membership in the prestigious National Academy of Design, as well as belonging to a host of prominent art clubs and associations. Moro Castle, San Juan was exhibited at the pivotal 1913 Armory Show. I discovered it at the 2016 Baltimore Summer Antiques Show, held in the Convention Center in the Inner Harbor. Dealers from whom I had purchased items in prior years brought the painting to show to me. They pulled me into their booth, situated at the front end of a row, telling me that they had brought this large harbor scene, an American painting, specifically with me in mind. They asked me if I were familiar with Herman Dudley Murphy, showing me his monogram in the lower corner of the canvas. "Of course," I said and immediately noticed the unusual frame, thinking "Aha! Carrig-Rohane?" Thanks to my internet access, I was able to pull up similar images for Carrig-Rohane frames. When I asked them to take the painting down from the wall and turn it around, I immediately noticed an old exhibition label on the back covering paper. I always tell collectors to look at the backs of pictures for there may be valuable clues. In this case, the clue was literally valuable, as it was the label for the Munson-Williams-Proctor Arts Institute's Sixtieth Anniversary of the Armory Show, held in 1963 at the museum, located in Utica, NY. As a specialist in early American modernism who did the doctoral dissertation on a topic closely related to the Armory Show, I was thrilled to behold this survivor. The dealers hadn't noticed the label and didn't know what it signified even if they had taken it in. Delightful brothers, they specialize in estate auctions and house cleanouts on Long Island, and are not scholar-geek types like me. I arranged to buy the painting for what I considered an advantageous price and it awaits moderate restoration to be put forth for purchase and study. The painting was exhibited in a solo show of Murphy's paintings presented by Pratt Institute, Brooklyn, NY, also in 1913. It has a distinguished provenance as it formerly was in the collection of Ambassador Robert Woods Bliss, founder of Dumbarton Oaks museum and library in Washington, DC.