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Elizabeth Murray (artist)

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Elizabeth Murray (artist)

Elizabeth Murray
Wiggle Manhattan, lithograph, 1992, Museum of Modern Art
Born (1940-09-06)September 6, 1940
Chicago, Illinois
Died August 12, 2007(2007-08-12) (aged 66)
Nationality American
Education School of the Art Institute of Chicago.
Mills College.
Known for Painting, printmaking

Elizabeth Murray (September 6, 1940 – August 12, 2007)[1] was an American painter, printmaker and draughtsman. Her works are in many major public collections, including those of the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, the Museum of Modern Art,[2] the Whitney Museum of American Art, the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art,[3] the Art Institute of Chicago, the Carnegie Museum of Art, and the Wadsworth Atheneum.

Life and work

Elizabeth Murray was born in Chicago, Illinois, United States. Murray graduated from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago in 1958-1962. She earned her Master of Fine Arts degree from Mills College in 1964.[4] As a student, she was influenced by painters ranging from Cézanne to Robert Rauschenberg and Jasper Johns.[5]

In 1967, Murray moved to New York City, and first exhibited in 1971 in the Whitney Museum of American Art Annual Exhibition. One of her first mature works included "Children Meeting," 1978 (now in the permanent collection of the Whitney Museum), an oil on canvas painting evoking human characteristics, personalities, or pure feeling through an interaction of non-figurative shapes, colour and lines.[5] She is particularly noted for her shaped canvas paintings.[6]

She was elected a Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in 1998.[7] In 1999, Murray was awarded a MacArthur Fellowship.[8] This grant led directly to opening of the Bowery Poetry Club, a Lower East Side performance arts venue run by her husband, Bob Holman.[9]

In 2006, her 40-year career was honored at New York City's Museum of Modern Art (MoMA).[10] The retrospective was widely praised, with The New York Times noting that by the end of the exhibition, "You're left with the sense of an artist in the flush of her authority and still digging deep."[6] As of 2008, Murray was only one of four female artists to have had a retrospective at the MoMA (the other three are Louise Bourgeois (in 1982), Lee Krasner (in 1984), and Helen Frankenthaler (in 1989).[11]

In 2007, Murray died of lung cancer. In her obituary, The New York Times wrote that Murray "reshaped Modernist abstraction into a high-spirited, cartoon-based, language of form whose subjects included domestic life, relationships and the nature of painting itself..."[1] The Bowery Poetry Club held a Praise Day in her honor on August 30, 2007, with artists Brice Marden and Joel Shapiro, writers Jessica Hagedorn and Patricia Spears Jones, and choreographers Elizabeth Streb and Yoshiko Chuma among the attendees; Artforum described the event as "a blend of the poignant and the comic that threatened to bring it closer to a Saturday Night Live skit shredding avant-garde performance practice than an actual art-world remembrance." [12] A second private memorial was held at the Museum of Modern Art later that fall. Murray was survived by her husband, Bob Holman, and three children: daughters Sophia Murray Holman and Daisy Murray Holman, and son Dakota Sunseri.[1]


The Murray-Holman Family Trust is represented by the Pace Gallery in New York.

After Murray's death, the A G Foundation, Columbia University, and the Archives of American Art established the “Elizabeth Murray Oral History of Women in the Visual Arts Project,” to honor her memory. "It seems so right to honor Elizabeth Murray by archiving the lives, the thoughts, the dreams and goals of other women who—like herself—persisted in the visual arts, extending and enriching the world through their work," said the A G Foundation's Agnes Gund.[13]



  1. ^ a b c Smith, Roberta. "Elizabeth Murray, 66, Artist of Vivid Forms, Dies", The New York Times, 13 August 2007. Retrieved 16 April 2008.
  2. ^ The Collection: Elizabeth Murray (American, 1940–2007),
  3. ^ Elizabeth Murray - American Abstract Painter, 1940-2007,
  4. ^ Notable Graduates, Mills College,
  5. ^ a b Grove Dictionary of Art, Macmillan Publishers, 1996, ISBN 1-884446-00-0
  6. ^ a b Kimmelman, Michael (October 21, 2005) "ART REVIEW; Stirring Up a Commotion on Canvas" October 21, 2005New York Times
  7. ^ "Book of Members, 1780-2010: Chapter M". American Academy of Arts and Sciences. Retrieved 10 April 2011. 
  8. ^ 1999 MacArthur Foundation Awards,
  9. ^ Aptowicz, Cristin O'Keefe. (2008). Words in Your Face: A Guided Tour Through Twenty Years of the New York City Poetry Slam. "CHAPTER 26: What the Heck Is Going On Here; The Bowery Poetry Club Opens (Kinda) for Business." Soft Skull Press. ISBN 1-933368-82-9.
  10. ^ Exhibition: Elizabeth Murray, October 23, 2005–January 6, 2006, MoMA
  11. ^ "A Visit With the Modern's First Grandmother" By CAROL KINO. Published: October 2, 2005.New York Times
  12. ^ Remembering Murray, ARTFORUM, August 30, 2007.
  13. ^ "Elizabeth Murray Oral History of Women in the Visual Arts Project". Archives of American Art. Smithsonian Institution. Retrieved 7 October 2013. 


  • Elizabeth Murray; Francine Prose; PaceWildenstein (Firm) Elizabeth Murray: paintings 1999-2003: March 7-April 19, 2003 (New York, N.Y.: PaceWildenstein, 2003) ISBN 1-930743-24-6
  • Robert Storr; Museum of Modern Art (New York, N.Y.) Elizabeth Murray (New York: Museum of Modern Art; London: Thames & Hudson [distributor], 2005) ISBN 0-87070-493-1
  • Elizabeth Murray: Drawings, 1980-1986 (exhibition catalogue, Pittsburgh, PA, Carnegie-Mellon U.A.G. 1986)
  • Elizabeth Murray: Paintings and Drawings (exhibition catalogue, Dallas, TX, Museum A, and elsewhere, 1987)

External links

  • Biography, interviews, essays, artwork images and video clips from PBS series Art:21 -- Art in the Twenty-First Century - Season 2 (2003).
  • COLOR page on Elizabeth Murray, with
  • , 1996BloomingMTA Arts for Transit page on Elizabeth Murray's large-scale glass mosaic mural,
  • , 2001StreamMTA Arts for Transit page on Elizabeth Murray's large-scale glass mosaic mural,
  • , Greg MastersInterview with Elizabeth Murray
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