Law's Murphys: Works by Christopher Murphy, Jr. from the W. W. Law Art Collection

Christopher Murphy, Jr.
W. W. Law

Far Left:
Self-portrait by Christopher Murphy, Jr., oil on board, undated, Morris Museum of Art

Left: W. W. Law in front of the King-Tisdell Cottage, circa 1990-1995, City of Savannah Municipal Archives

Christopher Aristide Desbouillons Murphy (December 28, 1902-October 20, 1973) was born in Savannah, Georgia to artists Lucile Desbouillons and Christopher Patrick Hussey Murphy. From a young age, Christopher Murphy, Jr. studied art, receiving instruction first from his parents. After graduating from Benedictine Military School, he attended the Art Students League in New York City. Also interested in architecture, he studied design under Lloyd Warren, director of the Beaux-Arts Institute of Design in New York. In 1925, he was awarded a Louis Comfort Tiffany Foundation Fellowship. During his career, he was widely exhibited with pieces displayed at the Victoria and Albert Museum in London, the Brooklyn Society of Etchers, the New York Water Color Club, the Art Institute of Chicago, the Sesquicentennial Exposition in Philadelphia, the High Museum of Art in Atlanta, the 1939 New York World’s Fair, the Whitney Museum of American Art, and a solo exhibition in New Jersey. His work was also included in traveling exhibitions of the Southern States Art League and the American Watercolor Society. Murphy was also a teacher, instructing art classes at Armstrong State College, Hunter Air Force Base Service Club, the Savannah Area Vocational-Technical School, and the Telfair Academy of Arts and Sciences.

Known for his etchings and watercolors of Savannah and the surrounding area, Murphy’s subject matter included both Savannah’s grand architecture and everyday street life. He captured both progress and neglect and how they changed his native city. Local historian and preservationist Westley Wallace “W. W.” Law (January 1, 1923-July 28, 2002) appreciated how Murphy’s art documented African American neighborhoods and landmarks, which he was working to bring attention and protection to. In 1981, Law mounted “Changing Times: On The Streets of Old Savannah,” a pictorial exhibit at the King-Tisdell Cottage Museum. The exhibit included six works by Murphy and focused on how Savannah’s African American churches and sites had changed through the years. Several of these works became part of Law’s personal art collection and are featured here.