The Museum’s role is to help people understand the present and to learn about their neighbours.
(Dr. Sean B. Murphy)
It was with great sadness that the Museum learned of the passing of Dr. Sean B. Murphy last March. Sean devoted so many years to the Museum in a great many distinguished capacities. He joined the Membership Committee in 1959, became a Trustee in 1965 and served as Museum President from 1968 until 1978. Until just a few years ago, he also chaired various Museum acquisition committees. A highly esteemed, nationally recognized ophthalmologist, and a member of the Order of Canada, to those who knew him, Sean was above all a gentleman. His support of the Museum included generous donations, close to 150 works, many of them works on paper. Although Sean loved prints and was an active collector of both European Old Master and modern European, American and Canadian prints, he maintained a particular enthusiasm for drawing throughout his life. Reflecting his encouragement to others to take up pencil, chalk or watercolour in Dare to Draw, his book on amateur drawing published in 2008, he could often be seen in our galleries executing quick sketches. During his travels, which ranged from Métis-sur-Mer to Venice, he always had a sketchbook at hand.
To pay tribute to this extraordinary man and his great generosity, it is most fitting that we should mount an exhibition of a selection of works on paper he donated to the Museum. The works exhibited range from the sixteenth to the late twentieth century, from Italy and Britain to the United States and Canada: among the Italians are fine Canalettos (ill. 4) and works by Giovanni Battista Piranesi and Giuseppe Bernardino Bison (ill. 10); from Britain, there are extraordinary drawings (and bronzes) by Henry Moore (ill. 7), prints by Stanley William Hayter and Lynn Chadwick, and a lovely Paul Nash watercolour; twentieth-century American print masters represented include George Wesley Bellows (ill. 6), Stow Wegenroth, Martin Lewis and Reginald Marsh; and Canadian masters Alfred Pellan (ill. 5), Jean-Paul Riopelle, Jean McEwen and Christopher Pratt. Other international modernists include Pablo Picasso (ill. 2), Rufino Tamayo, Marino Marini and Claes Oldenburg. The exhibition also features works by Sean’s two artist parents, the Canadian Cecil Buller (ill. 8) and the American John Murphy, as well as some of his own sketches.
Sean’s vision extended well into the future, and he established a fund in his mother’s name for the acquisition of prints. When he withdrew from his Museum duties, his many friends established the Dr. Sean B. Murphy Fund for the acquisition of works on paper. Furthering Sean’s legacy at the Museum, these funds have made it possible to acquire many masterworks, including an early rare print after Hieronymus Bosch, an engraving by Hendrick Goudt, the first Ludovico Carracci to enter the collection and a touching hand-coloured woodcut depicting a portion of the Lord’s Prayer by the German Expressionist Max Pechstein (ill. 9).