In his entertaining and unabashedly immodest autobiography, A Passion For Collecting, Patrick J Murphy tells us how his family caution him about his legendary generosity. He has donated so many pieces from his collection to various museums and educational institutions that they are worried he hasn’t retained enough art to pay his nursing home fees should he become infirm. This concern seems to have been misplaced as the far from infirm Pat Murphy, along with his wife Antoinette, have an impressive 200 works for auction at Adam’s.
Murphy has been a lively presence on the Irish art scene for nearly 40 years. He has been chairman of the Arts Council, on the selection committee and chairman of Rosc, and art advisor to the OPW. In addition to his buying and selling activities and his positive gadfly influence on an often moribund art scene, Murphy has been a zealous advocate for some neglected Irish artists. He had a particular fondness for Mary Swanzy’s work and he developed a close relationship with the London-based artist in the latter stages of her life. He was also responsible for the rehabilitation of her reputation by encouraging Leo Smith to put on an exhibition of her work at the prestigious Dawson Gallery. You would expect him to have some superior Swanzys in his collection. And so he does. One of these, The White Tower, is an outstanding work that was featured recently in ‘Voyages’, the major retrospective of her work at IMMA. Swanzy ventured occasionally into Futurism in the 1920s and later in the 1940s and there are clear signs of the Italian Futurist Umberto Boccioni in this painting.
John P O’Sullivan