Saturday, May 31, 2008

Picture This: Gerald Murphy

Sara and Gerald Murphy were the "very rich" whom Hemingway said "are different from you and me."

They lived on inherited money and illusions, and they did it well, in fine style on the Riviera at their Villa America. Their lives, though, were more complicated than the sunny picture above might make you think. "If it weren't for the invented life," Gerald asked, "how could we bear the real life?" They loved and lost two sons (Dorothy Parker spent the better part of a year with them in Switzerland, watching one die of tuberculosis; she never said an unkind word about them, which says something), they loved each other deeply, but Gerald had an eye that roved to men...

And in the midst of it all, he painted. Just a handful of pictures - 14, and only 7 survive - as if his only goal were to prove that if he wanted he could have been the Great American Artist, and having done so, had had enough. Still, they are very lovely paintings.

Watch, 1925

Wasp and Pear, 1929

Razor, 1924

In a world in which living well now means some flashy blend of Paris Hilton and Emirati excess, the kind of hedonism the Murphys practiced - cultured, thoughtful, witty, and kind - seems very far away. And that's a shame.

1 comment:

  1. Wow. Interesting. And his artwork is awesome.