Samuel Aloysius Murray is perhaps better known as a close friend and disciple of Thomas Eakins than as a sculptor in his own right. His monuments and statues dot Philadelphia, yet here in a town bursting with bronzed heroes no circle nor facade displays his work.
But for a while we can see some of his overlooked pieces. The Hirshhorn, which holds the bulk of Murray's work, this week put 35 of his bronze and plaster sculptures on display for the first time.
They are small naturalistic studies of the human form. From "Grief," modeled on his sister Gertrude, to the bust of three-year-old Arcadia Willoughby St. John, he captures a distinct personality as well as exacting anatomical details. Busts of Walt Whitman, Eakins and Eakins' father are stately but realistic -- Murray said "great folk" made the most interesting subjects.
His second favorite must have been children. The artist was known for reciting nursery rhymes to his child subjects as they posed, and a cow jumping over the moon is visible on the bust below Arcadia's head.
The exhibit includes photos of his models and maquettes and one, taken by Eakins, of a nude Murray. Also on view is a family scrapbook of clippings and shots of works in progress, memorabilia that were just waiting for this exhibit. SAMUEL ALOYSIUS MURRAY -- At the Hirshhorn through July 18. graphics /photo: Thomas Eakins, by Samuel Aloysius Murray.