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Elizabeth Murray

American Painter

Elizabeth Murray Photo
Movement: Neo-Expressionism

Born: September 6, 1940 - Chicago, IL

Died: August 12, 2007 - New York, NY

"My paintings are often strange, and sometimes show me a part of myself - a violence and physicality that scares me. It's not always pleasant or easy. I don't always like it, and really when I do them it's a journey."

Summary of Elizabeth Murray

Elizabeth Murray's paintings are fun, cartoonish, and also deadly serious in their commitment to the medium and its boundless possibilities. Murray is famous for expanding painting's dimensions by working across multiple canvasses, and fragmenting the picture plane by breaking up not only the image, but the painted object itself.

Murray's work plays between abstraction and recognizable imagery, using bright, garish colors to portray objects, people, relationships, and emotions: in particular the works express a joy in painting alongside a healthy disrespect for the hallows of painting's serious histories and, later in her life, a frank acknowledgement of her own mortality and illness.

Key Ideas

'Pastiche' is a term used to refer to a celebratory imitation of an artwork or style. Parody is a similar term, but means an imitation produced to mock. Murray's paintings often both pastiche and parody painting's history: using recognizable Cubist and Modernist abstraction techniques and reinterpreting famous works of art in a way that playfully pokes fun at the hallowed history and contemporary seriousness of painting as a medium.
Unlike many of her cotemporaries, Elizabeth Murray was determined not only to paint (after one of painting's many purported deaths), but to make fun paintings. Influenced by cartoons, Murray's work is intentionally bright, often silly, and always playful.
Elizabeth Murray Photo

Elizabeth Murray was born in 1940 in Chicago, Illinois and grew up in Bloomington, Indiana. Her parents were Irish immigrants and her mother took care of the family, while her father worked as a lawyer. Despite her father's job and a few good early years, the family often struggled financially and experienced some bouts of brief homelessness. Murray admired her mother's artistic abilities; particularly her painted miniatures, but saw her as "a typical woman of the thirties. She didn't have the whereabouts to make herself have a career." Despite her parents' traditional background, they didn't pressure her to get married and have a family; rather, they expected she would become a commercial artist due to her love of drawing.

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