J. Francis Murphy was America’s premier Tonalist, whose landscapes bare his poetic style. Moving away from realistic depictions of nature, Murphy attempted to capture landscape’s lyric potential, often applying several layers of glaze to achieve atmospheric effects.
Born in Oswego, New York, Murphy was a self-taught artist whose sensitive temperament drew him toward pastoral scenes. After keeping a studio in New York City for many years, he moved to Arkville, a picturesque town in the Catskills that had once been the home of Thomas Cole. There, Murphy created evocative vignettes of stark meadows and still ponds, pushing his moody style to its expressionistic limits.
Murphy’s paintings were highly sought-after during his lifetime, earning praise from collectors and critics alike. He exhibited at all of the leading venues, including the Brooklyn Art Association, the Boston Art Club, and the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, and received prizes from the National Academy of Design, the Society of American Artists, and the World’s Fairs of 1893, 1901, 1902, 1904, and 1915. Today, his work is featured in the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the National Gallery of Art, the Corcoran Gallery of Art, the Smithsonian American Art Museum, and the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston.