Gerald Murphy, ‘Razor’, 1924, Bowdoin College Museum of Art

Razor draws upon the tradition of nineteenth-century American rack pictures. This category of trompe l’oeil still life employs everyday items related to the subject—such as addressed envelopes, writing implements, and printed ephemera—in order to convey identity. Indeed, this composition features material commodities with close associations to the artist. Murphy played a key role in the design of shaving implements, and his family’s luxury goods company produced fountain pens like the one shown here. Murphy’s hard-edged precisionist style underscores the solid tangibility of his preferred subject matter: objects close at hand. This Art Deco composition is a rare survivor from the studio of this expatriate modernist; fewer than ten paintings by his hand are known today.

Image rights: © Estate of Honoria Murphy Donnelly/Licensed by VAGA, New York, New York

"This Is a Portrait If I Say So: Identity in American Art, 1912 to Today"

Dallas Museum of Art, Dallas, Texas, Foundation for the Arts Collection, gift of the artist.

About Gerald Murphy

Attractive, stylish, wealthy, and considered charming company by the likes of F. Scott Fitzgerald, Pablo Picasso, and Ernest Hemingway, Gerald Murphy and his wife Sara figured prominently in the Lost Generation of Americans in Paris during the Jazz Age. Murphy produced relatively few paintings, but his deconstructed renderings of everyday objects in flat, unmodulated colors are celebrated for their meticulous fusion of Cubist and Constructivist ideas. Shaped by his earlier aspirations to be an architect and influenced by Juan Gris, Georges Braque, and Fernand Léger, Murphy creating poster-like, graphic canvases with painstaking architectural precision. Watch (1925), perhaps his best-known work, depicts a timepiece splayed out in such a way as to evoke the inner workings of a factory.

American, 1888-1964