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The National Portrait Gallery acknowledges the Traditional Custodians of Country throughout Australia and recognises the continuing connection to lands, waters and communities. We pay our respect to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultures and to Elders both past and present.

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Arthur Murch

1945
Margaret Michaelis

gelatin silver photograph on paper (mount: 29.4 cm x 24.7 cm, image/sheet: 20.5 cm x 16.3 cm)

Arthur Murch, artist, is best-known as a painter in a colourful cubistic style, but he was occupied with sculpture throughout his career. Murch trained at Dattilo-Rubbo’s school between 1921 and 1925; meanwhile, in sculpture his most important teacher was Rayner Hoff. It was his sculpture that won him the 1925 Travelling Art Scholarship, which he spent most profitably in Italy. Later, his chief mentor was George Lambert, whom he assisted in Sydney from 1927 to 1930. At that time, Lambert was weakened by remnant malaria, and he greatly valued Murch’s strength, calling him the ‘pocket Hercules’. They worked together on the figure for the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier in St Mary’s Cathedral, and Murch completed the Henry Lawson Memorial after Lambert died in 1930. Other works Murch produced around the period of his association with Lambert include the memorial to Thorburn Brailsford Robertson in Adelaide University, and the Macarthur Onslow Memorial Light Horse Trophy. In 1933 he travelled with a scientific expedition to Hermannsburg, and he returned to the mission the following year. Many of his paintings reflect his interest in Indigenous culture and practises. In the late 1930s he was in the UK, and worked on the wool pavilion at the Glasgow Empire Exhibition. In 1941 he won the competition to execute the memorial relief in honour of Dame Nellie Melba in the Sydney Town Hall. During World War 2 he was an official war artist in the Northern Territory, working in Darwin and around the Adelaide River. Perhaps because his father was a carpenter-builder and he himself trained as an engineer, Murch sculpted in all imaginable media including fibreglass, rubber, pottery, stitched felt applique and cement - the latter when restoring Norman Lindsay’s garden sculptures. He was a foundation member of the Australian Academy of Art; he won the Society of Artists’ Medal in 1935 and the Archibald Prize for 1949. The 1977 exhibition Project 19: Arthur Murch at the Art Gallery of New South Wales was the first major survey of Murch’s work by a public gallery. Now, the Art Gallery of New South Wales has many of his works; the Australian War Memorial has more than thirty of his paintings and drawings and he is represented in most Australian public galleries. The papers of Arthur Murch, collated by Ria Murch, are in the archive of the Art Gallery of New South Wales.

Collection: National Portrait Gallery
Purchased 2015

The National Portrait Gallery respects the artistic and intellectual property rights of others. Works of art from the collection are reproduced as per the Australian Copyright Act 1968 (Cth). The use of images of works from the collection may be restricted under the Act. Requests for a reproduction of a work of art can be made through a Reproduction request. For further information please contact NPG Copyright.

Artist and subject

Margaret Michaelis (age 43 in 1945)

Arthur Murch (age 43 in 1945)

Subject professions

Visual arts and crafts

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The National Portrait Gallery acknowledges the Traditional Custodians of Country throughout Australia and recognises the continuing connection to lands, waters and communities. We pay our respect to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultures and to Elders past and present. We respectfully advise that this site includes works by, images of, names of, voices of and references to deceased people.

This website comprises and contains copyrighted materials and works. Copyright in all materials and/or works comprising or contained within this website remains with the National Portrait Gallery and other copyright owners as specified.

The National Portrait Gallery respects the artistic and intellectual property rights of others. The use of images of works of art reproduced on this website and all other content may be restricted under the Australian Copyright Act 1968 (Cth). Requests for a reproduction of a work of art or other content can be made through a Reproduction request. For further information please contact NPG Copyright.

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