Doing What Ya Gotta Do
Gerald took lessons and opened a studio in Paris where he produced a few monumental paintings. The February 18, 1924 issue of TIME proclaimed:
An American has turned the art circles of Paris into triangles and polygons. He is Gerald Murphy, and his canvas, a “composite conception of the steamers Paris and Olympic,” standing 18 feet high, is a picture of the smokestacks and bridge of an Atlantic liner. The Independent Salon at which this gigantic painting was to be shown gives over one gallery to each nation. But when Mr. Murphy’s work of art arrived, it was found there would be almost no wall space left for other American artists. The painting was, therefore, hung over the grand entrance staircase, the most conspicuous position in the building.
Also in Paris, Gerald designed the set, costumes and story for “Within the Quota,” a jazz ballet about immigration to America with music by Cole Porter; it premiered in Paris in 1923 to favorable reviews and has been revived a few times over the years.
In 1925, the Murphys were pioneer settlers on the French Riviera, moving to Antibes where they bought a modest villa on the Mediterranean that they named Villa America. There they led storybook lives, bringing up their beautiful children and hosting a never-ending house party for the incredible coterie of world-renowned artists, writers and musicians who doted on them. Over the next four years, Gerald produced a few paintings; his total lifetime oeuvre is estimated to be just 14 pictures, of which seven survive.
The Murphys’ magic idyll was shattered on October 10, 1929 when their son, Patrick, age 9, was diagnosed with tuberculosis. Gerald did what he had to do—closed Villa America and put Patrick into a sanitarium in Swiss Alps village of Montana-Vermala, where the family lived for the next 18 months. Gerald and Sara’s entire energies were devoted to making Patrick well.