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Walter Murch: "A Painter's Painter"
Walter Tandy Murch grew up in Canada and went to Manhattan to take a summer job. He ended up staying there for his entire career as a fine arts painter, commercial illustrator, and teacher. Because he did not become an American citizen until 1946, he was not eligible for Works Projects Administration (WPA) work, and had a tough time making a living, doing window designs for Lord & Taylor or murals for New York hotels. All the while, he managed to keep up his private painting. Fortunately one of the great gallerists, Betty Parsons, saw something she admired in his work and took him on in 1941. This brought him into contact with other artists in the gallery like Franz Kline, Barnett Newman, and Jackson Pollock. Gradually he began to absorb the lessons of these "action painters" and integrate them into mysterious images of broken machines, old oriental rugs, and geometric forms. He also began to accept teaching positions at places like Columbia University and Pratt Institute, and in 1961 was appointed Chair of Graduate Painting at Boston University. Still, he and his wife stayed in New York and he commuted to Boston until he died suddenly of a massive coronary at 60.
Murch combined an extraordinary work ethic with extreme modesty. He looked more like an insurance salesman than an artist. He was born left-handed and, as was the practice back then, his parents tied the hand behind his back, resulting in a lifetime stammer. In a teenage football game the ball hit him in his right eye and damaged it almost totally. He had unusual working methods to say the least. He only painted at night. He would leave his unstretched or half-finished canvases on the floor of the hallway of his apartment, encouraging his family to walk on them so that there were marks and patterns he might take advantage of and continue.
There is a tenuous Maine connection in Murch's story. He and his family rented a cottage in the Five Islands area for a number of summers in the 1930s. And he served on the faculty of the Skowhegan School of Art for two summers toward the end of his life. Murch's only son has become one of the world's leading film editors, winning Oscars for his work on the Godfather films and "Apocalypse Now." He edited "The Unbearable Lightness of Being," "The English Patient," and "Cold Mountain," among many others. Murch is a "painter's painter," well known to other artists, who reverence his work, but not so familiar to the general public. My new monograph on Murch is designed to correct that lacuna.
Presenter Winslow Myers grew up in Walpole, and received a degree in the Special Program in the Humanities from Princeton University, combining studies in literature and art history. Wanting to learn to paint, he earned a second undergraduate degree from Boston University, where he received guidance from the Canadian-American painter Walter Murch. He taught studio art and art history in Massachusetts for 40 years, returning to Maine after his retirement from full-time teaching, where he continues to paint. During his teaching career Winslow searched for a publisher who could undertake a proper monograph on Murch, and the stars finally aligned when the film director George Lucas, who collects Murch's work, teamed up with the art book publisher Rizzoli to produce the book.
Monday, September 27, 2021, 12:00 PM until 1:00 PM
On Zoom. The Zoom link will be emailed to registrants a few days before the presentation.
Registration is required
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