AMERICAN FRAMES, HERMAN DUDLEY MURPHY, 1867-1945

 

His work is closely related to that of Whistler, and he shared the common belief in the importance of the picture frame in the total perception, a work of art unified with its surroundings. Murphy’s involvement in frame-making and design is evidence of his preoccupation with the Aesthetic and Arts & Crafts, which were having a considerable impact in Boston at the turn of the century. His influence made Boston the center for artistic framing in the country. Murphy’s interest in framing extended back into his student days in Paris, where he would surely have seen examples of Whistler’s frames. He was convinced of the extreme importance of individual and proper framing to the impact of a picture, and without resources to order the finest of frames; he purchased the necessary tools and learned the skills of carving and gilding.

Murphy’s interest in frames was shared by Charles Prendergast. In 1903 in Winchester Massachusetts, the two men set up a frame shop in the basement of Murphy’s house, which was named after a Celtic name “Carrig- Rohane”. In 1905 the frame shop moved to Boston. It succeeded in bringing Murphy substantial income, and frames were carved under Murphy’s specific designs showing affinities with the turn-of- the-century Arts & Crafts composition and ornaments. Later, Murphy turned his shares of the company to his artisans and the shop entered into a partnership with the Vose Gallery in Boston. Among its productions were many of the most beautiful frames executed in the 20th century.

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