(American, born in Canada, 1907-1967)
Architectural Fragment, 1957
oil on canvas mounted to plywood, 24 7/8 x 19 inches
Walter Tandy Murch was born in Toronto in 1907 and moved to New York City at the age of 20 to begin a career as an illustrator. His exacting technique was especially favored by technology companies, such as Ford Motors and McDonnell Douglas aircraft, who commissioned Murch to paint advertisements featuring their iconic products. This success allowed Murch to quietly pursue his personal work without compromise. In his studio he gathered old toys, machine parts, and discarded objects of all sorts to serve as unconventional subjects for his art. In meticulous paintings executed over lengthy periods, he imbued these mundane objects with an arresting, otherworldly presence. A dim, honey-colored light and dusty atmosphere amplify a profound feeling of nostalgia and the passing of time in works such as Architectural Fragment.
Although very aware of modern art trends—the Abstract Expressionist Arshile Gorky was one of his mentors—Murch’s work relates more directly to the art historical tradition of “vanitas,” still life paintings of decaying worldly goods meant to illustrate the ephemeral nature of life. By the time of his death in 1967, his acclaim as a painter and teacher had overshadowed his reputation as an illustrator.
The factors that influence a person’s life, influence the painter and his paintings. The choice a painter makes, when a painting is to be made, the effort to paint the secret behind human beings and things. I must not paint the thing itself, but I will paint the air between myself and the thing, and beyond.
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