‘He captured in stone the history of a generation’

WORLD-RENOWNED sculptor Seamus Murphy is to be honoured in Cork next year to mark the centenary of his birth.

Cork city council has agreed to set up a special committee to plan a year-long programme of events celebrating the Cork-born sculptor’s life, work and writings.

The committee will include members of the Murphy family, possibly his widow, Maighread Ua Murchú, members of the council’s arts committee, the directors of the Crawford Art Gallery and Public Museum and the city librarian.

Cllr Mairín Quill said the events, which will include exhibitions and a possible art trail following Murphy’s work, should also feature a critical appraisal of life’s work. The last major exhibition of his work took place in 1980.

Ms Quill said the time was now right to place Murphy in his rightful place as one of Cork’s greatest artists.

“Better than most, he captured in stone the history of a whole generation,” she said.

It is also hoped to organise a reprinting of his autobiography, Stone Mad, first published in 1950.

Seamus Murphy was born near Mallow in 1907. From 1922 until 1930 he worked as an apprentice stone carver at John Aloysius O’Connor’s stone yard in Blackpool, Cork.

In 1931, he travelled on a scholarship to London and then to Paris where he was a student at Colarossi’s atelier, and studied with the Irish-American sculptor, Andrew O’Connor.

After returning to Ireland, he worked in O’Connor’s stone yard, then in 1934 opened his own studio on the Watercourse Road in Blackpool.

Among his first commissions were the Clonmult memorial at Midleton, two statues for Bantry Church, and a carved figure of St Gobnait in Ballyvourney graveyard.

The Murphy household at Wellesley Terrace on Wellington Road became a great cultural and social meeting place in Cork.

His Virgin of the Twilight was exhibited at the RHA in 1943, and was later erected at Fitzgerald’s Park, Cork. That same year he married Maighread Higgins, daughter of Cork sculptor Joseph Higgins.

In 1945 he designed Blackpool Church for William Dwyer, and in 1947 carved the apostles and St Brigid for a church in San Francisco. Another of his sculptures is in St Paul, Minnesota, USA. He became professor of sculpture at the RHA in 1964, and was awarded an Hon LLD by the National University of Ireland in 1969.

Seamus Murphy died in Cork in 1975 and buried at Rathcooney graveyard.

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