Jack Murray (b.1889). Farm Journal Cover Illustration, 1939. Oil on illustration board measures 21.5 x 27.5 inches. Excellent condition with no paint loss or restoration. Some blanching of surface in sky area do to water exposure. A conservator can easily address this with a light cleaning and varnish. The piece has never been cleaned or varnished. Signed lower left. An original magazine cover accompanies the painting with purchase.
Price on request
The saga of the Murray family in this country began when the grandfather of the present Mr. Murray brought his wife and four children here from England. They took passage on a side-wheeler, and although such ships plied the Atlantic regularly in those days, the one bearing the Murrays ran into a bad storm and lost its rudder in mid-ocean. It was tossed unmercifully for a full month before rescue came, and one can imagine the doubts and worries of the adults aboard. For the youngsters, it was an experience of untold misery that cast a long shadow into the future.
One of the boys, J. K. Murray, grew up to become a well known opera star, as was his wife, the former Clara Lane of Ellsworth, Maine. The famous pair received many invitations to sing in Europe, but each one was refused perhaps because Mr. Murray’s memory of his single crossing was too vivid. At any rate, they were living in Pittsburg, Pennsylvania on August 12, 1889 when our subject, the son who was to be an artist, was born. Although he was christened John, the name has seldom been used and it is as Jack Murray that he is known throughout the world as a painter of wildlife.
The family moved to Boston when Jack was five years old. He showed an early interest in wildlife art, making his first drawings when he was nine years old, and getting into taxidermy at fourteen. He went to Winthrop High School, was in the class of 1914 at Massachusetts State College (the school that later awarded him an academic Gold Medal for his art-work), and finished his education at the Massachusetts School of Art.
The instructor that Mr. Murray recalls most clearly was Ernest L. Major, whose classes were memorable not only for Mr. Major’s teaching techniques, but also because it was there that Mr. Murray met his future wife, Helena Feeny. (She was a very good artist who began her career doing fashion drawings for Filene’s Department Store in Boston, and later became Director of their Art and Advertising Department.) They were married in 1921 and struck out that very day for New York to try their luck in new surroundings.
At first, Mr. Murray continued working for engravers, lithographers, and printers, as he had in Boston. Gradually the character of his employment changed more to his liking as he got more and more assignments from advertising agencies to do drawings and paintings. In 1926 he and Mrs. Murray bought a farm outside the city to use as a summer place. Here he fixed up a studio where he could keep on with the major interest of his life, the painting of wildlife. It was work that had been relegated to spare moments over the years, but the turning point came when one of these “hobby” paintings was accepted as a cover by the Saturday Evening Post.
This led to illustration of natural history subjects for the American Museum of Natural History in New York. He illustrated school books and did paintings for national magazines such as Country Home, Woman’s Home Companion, Good Housekeeping, Boy’s Life, Child Life, Farm Journal, Farmer’s Wife, Successful Farming, Better Homes and Gardens, and This Week Magazine of the New York Herald Tribune.
Mr. Murray’s animal and bird paintings were enormously popular. He received letters of praise for them from all over the world, including one from Paris that urged him to exhibit his work over there. He did not accept the invitation, perhaps remembering that Murrays do not cross oceans lightly. Too, he was busy enough right at home, since several magazines used a cover painting by him every month of the year. The inside illustrations he did were innumerable.
In 1944 they returned to Boston where he became Art Director for four magazines at once: Open Road for Boys, Child Life, Outdoors, and Saltwater Sportsman. These were busy years, but he did find time to do his duck stamp design with its title derived from the bird’s scientific name: Chen (Greek, goose); hyperborea (Latin, from beyond the North wind).
He had been elected to membership in the Artists Guild of New York in 1932, and also became a member of the National Society of Art Directors. After the publication of the magazines was suspended, Mr. Murray worked for Rust Craft Greeting Cards, Inc.