Stan Murphy


One of the subjects that almost always guarantees animated discussions and the exchange of interesting information without the falling into the heated I’m- right-you’re-wrong debates — is art. Conversations about art and the artist involve inspiration, creativity, and the expression of individualism.

Tonight, Thursday, August 5, the Martha’s Vineyard Museum Lecture Series focuses on the art, the life, and the influence of the first Vineyard-based artist embraced Island-wide — the late Stanley Murphy. The program coincides with the museum’s current exhibit, “From Concept to Canvas: Selected Works of Stanley Murphy,” which continues through Columbus Day weekend. The Murphy family provided several hundred studies and sketches that are being displayed alongside the finished paintings.

Carpenter, fisherman, artist, and an integral part of the dynamic of Island life for most of his 83 years, Mr. Murphy, who moved to Tisbury in 1948 with his wife, Polly, and raised four children on the Island, used to go door to door with his paintings, and work at odd jobs until his art provided enough support. Eventually he became one of the Island’s premier artists. In 1971 he painted the murals of Native American whalers and other Island scenes in the Katharine Cornell Theatre, and received the Creative Living Award in 2001. The book of his work, “Where Magic Wears a Red Hat: The Art of Stanley Murphy,” by Karal Ann Marling was published by the Martha’s Vineyard Historical Society in 2004.

Mr. Murphy, essentially self-taught, painted the Island’s stone walls, farmlands, pastures, livestock, and fishing boats. He made detailed sketches and portraits of Islanders, most of the time of his family and close friends, who posed for him. The painting, “The Biography of Ernest Mayhew,” is a detailed combination of facts and fantasy, showing him with his lobster pot, while the mystical figure of a woman lies beneath the boat.

Led by the Museum’s curator, Bonnie Stacy, a panel composed of his friends and notable artists, Tess and Kib Bramhall, Bob Doran, Allen Whiting, and Rez Williams, will share anecdotes and insights about Mr. Murphy at 5:30 pm at the Federated Church in Edgartown.

Listening to their remembrances should conjure more than a sense of the man. Chances are it will create an impression of the inner landscape of the Island.

The Stan Murphy Artist Panel, Thursday, August 5, 5:30 pm, at the Federated Church, 45 South Summer St., Edgartown. Reception in the Pease House Galleries, Martha’s Vineyard Museum. $8 for members, $12 for non-members. Sponsored in part by Martha’s Vineyard Online.