Christopher Patrick Hussey Murphy

Artist Biography

Christopher P.H. Murphy was born in 1869, and had a middle-class upbringing in Savannah, Georgia. The artist’s father ran a shipping supply business and a commercial painting company, where Murphy began to work when he was about nineteen years old. As he began work at such a young age, it is probable that painting was a self-taught hobby which Murphy had time to develop only after the workday was finished. Savannah’s social scene during the 1890s was rooted deep within the community’s Irish-Catholic heritage; a shared interest in art and painting drew Murphy and fellow local Lucile Desbouillons together. On January 22, 1902, the two were married in her parents’ house in Savannah.

In addition to their marriage, 1902 was an eventful year for the couple: Murphy was elected to membership in the Hibernian Society, an esteemed Irish-Catholic order. He was actively involved in the organization for thirty-seven years, and was serving as President at the time of his death in 1939. That same year, his first son, Christopher A.D. Murphy, was born. Six years after getting married, Murphy moved his growing family into a new house, where he established a studio in the basement, intended for the entire family’s use. By 1912, the Murphy brood had expanded to include seven children: Chris Murphy, Jr., Richard, Hinckley, Mary Louise, Lucile Elizabeth, Margaret Augusta, and Eleanor.

The Murphy family established itself as a talented clan among members of Savannah’s art community. In 1915, Murphy decided to travel to Gloucester, Massachusetts, where he began to develop his watercolor technique. Shortly after, the artist began to exhibit his work at the American Water Color Society, and his skill with a paintbrush subsequently lead to his membership in 1928. His talents in other mediums were not to be ignored, and Murphy began to exhibit still-lifes, floral scenes, and depictions of city life rendered in oil, charcoal, and pastels at the Art Institute of Chicago in 1916.

With his death in 1939, Christopher P.H. Murphy left behind a legacy full of brightly-colored paintings which earned him the lasting reputation as “one of the finest painters in Savannah’s history.”

Sources:
Falk, Peter Hastings, ed. Who Was Who in American Art, 1564–1975: 400 Years of Artists in America. Vol. II, G–O. Madison, Connecticut: Sound View Press, 1999.
Feay Shellman Coleman, “Christopher A.D. Murphy, Savannah’s Artist” in Picturing Savannah: The Art of Christopher A.D. Murphy, exh. cat. Telfair Museum of Art (University of Georgia Press, 2008).

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