Doing What Ya Gotta Do
A couple of the paintings were framed and hung in private collections. But over the ensuing 30 years from the diagnosis of Patrick’s illness, Murphy dismissed his art career from his mind. Those paintings that were not lost were rolled up and forgotten in the attic and cellar of the Murphys’ home in Sneden’s Landing, New York. Out of the blue in 1960 Douglas MacAgy, director of the Dallas Museum of Contemporary Arts, wrote and asked to exhibit Murphy’s work—as many of the paintings as he could rustle up. When Alfred Barr of the Museum of Modern Art and René d’Harnoncourt of the Met evinced interest in his paintings, Murphy said, “I’ve been discovered. What does one wear?”
Far from being second-rate, the few canvases that survive show him to be a superb painter and the progenitor of Pop Art, the school made famous by Andy Warhol, Roy Lichtenstein, Claes Oldenburg, Robert Rauschenberg and James Rosenquist, to name a few.
Gerald Murphy—a potentially major painter who was kept from painting because he did what he had to do—died in 1964, remarkably, just two days after the death of his long-time friend, collaborator and Yale classmate, Cole Porter. Sara passed on 11 years later in 1975 at age 91.
Doing What You Have to Do: Running a War
Periodically I need a “Patton” fix—a viewing of the George C. Scott film written by Francis Ford Coppola and Edmund North and co-starring Karl Malden. Two scenes are etched in my brain:
* Patton’s advancing Army is stalled on a bridge, blocked by a mule. Patton arrives on the scene and exclaims, “It’s a goddamn mule blocking the way?” He pulls out a revolver, shoots the animal and orders it thrown off the bridge. He did what had to be done. The Army starts to move.