John Cullen Murphy was born in Chicago in 1919 and later moved to New Rochelle, New York with his family. In New Rochelle, his next-door-neighbor was Norman Rockwell, and the young Murphy sometimes sat as a model for the artist. Murphy was, in fact, the model for David Copperfield in Rockwell’s Land of Enchantment mural. Inspired by this auspicious initiation into the arts, Murphy then studied at the Art Students League.
When war broke out in Europe, he joined the New York 7th Regiment. Following training at Camp Stewart, Georgia, he sailed from Oakland, California in 1943 bound for Australia, where General Douglas MacArthur had established his headquarters following his retreat from the Philippines. Murphy served as aide-de-camp to one of MacArthur’s generals, who had escaped from Corregidor, and who was now in command of all American anti-aircraft forces. As a consequence, Murphy spent considerable time around MacArthur’s staff, going with MacArthur’s forces to New Guinea and later the Philippines before moving on to Japan following the surrender in 1945. In Tokyo, he sketched MacArthur and his family along with images of returning Japanese soldiers.
Many of Murphy’s sketches, drawings, and watercolors along with several sketchbooks depict scenes from these campaigns and the men and women who served in them. These were donated to the Anne S.K. Brown Military Collection in 1994. In 2012, Murphy’s widow donated his wartime letters. A selection of his letters and artwork will be on display in the Bopp Seminar Room at the John Hay Library through the end of the semester.
The Anne S. K. Brown Military Collection is the foremost American collection of material devoted to the history and iconography of soldiers and soldiering and is one of the world’s largest collections devoted to the study of military and naval uniforms. It contains approximately 20,000 printed books, numerous albums, sketchbooks, scrapbooks and portfolios, and over 15,000 individual prints, drawings, paintings and watercolors as well as a collection of 5,000 miniature lead soldiers. To learn more about the collection, please visit its webpage at http://library.brown.edu/collections/askb.
Dates: October 20 – December 22, 2014
Location: Bopp Seminar Room, John Hay Library, 20 Prospect Street, Providence