Friday 2 December 2016

My cultural life: Patrick J Murphy

Published 30/05/2016 | 02:30

Patrick J Murphy
Patrick J Murphy

Patrick J Murphy's business career was in banking, brewing and malting, and he served twice as president of the Irish Exporters' Association. His love of art saw him serve on many committees, including the Arts Council (chairman) and the RDS Arts Committee (chairman). On retiring, he served for nine years as art adviser to the OPW and to President Mary McAleese, purchasing many works of art for the state collection. He has lectured and written widely about the visual arts, and his latest book is An Art Lover's Guide to the French Riviera. He was born in New Ross and educated at the CBS and Trinity College.

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Design: Eileen Gray's villa E-1027

My favourite building by a modern Irish architect is Eileen Gray's ravishingly beautiful villa, E-1027 (below) - which she had built in 1927-29 at Roquebrune on the French Riviera, in partnership with her friend, and possibly lover, the Romanian architect Jean Badovici. The title is an amalgam of their names and dates. She was born in Enniscorthy, Co Wexford, and trained in London as an artist before setting up a design shop in Paris. She was initially influenced by the great Le Corbusier, though they were to fall out later when he painted colourful murals on the pristine inner walls of the compact, futuristic villa - which she considered a desecration.

TV: Artists In Love

I viewed a documentary in the series Artists In Love on Sky TV featuring the tragic love affair between Italian painter Amedeo Modigliani (below) and his French model Jeanne Hebuterne. He was Jewish, consumptive and over-fond of alcohol. She was bourgeois and a rebel art student. Modigliani was a genius without initial recognition, and painted glorious erotic female nudes and challenging contemporary portraits that were contrary to prevailing taste at the

beginning of the 20th Century. He died young and impoverished, and pregnant Jeanne sadly followed him - seeing no future without her adored handsome lover. A century later, Modigliani is acclaimed.

Book: Harpoon

When I am finished with a book I drop it into the Dundrum St Vincent de Paul charity shop. On a recent visit, after reading the action thriller I am Pilgrim by Terry Hayes, I came across an older novel titled Harpoon by Welsh author C.W. Nicol, who lives in Japan and is married to a Japanese composer. It turned out to be fascinating. It is set in the 18th and 19th centuries, when Japan was remote and isolated. Whaling was an important source of food, and samurai still dominated in a hierarchical system under feudal lords. It's a heart-breaking love story with a typical Oriental ending.

Art: Roderic O'Conor

I love Nu Brun by Roderic O'Conor, a powerful painting of a voluptuous Parisian model sitting on a stool in a receding interior, which was exhibited in the Paris Salon d'Autumne 1913. It is a richly-hued Fauvist composition and not a bit inferior to works by Bonnard and Matisse in the same exhibition. O'Conor seems to me to be the equal of his French contemporaries when he was painting at his best. The fact that he was moody and relatively well off may have been a hindrance, rather than an advantage, in his artistic career. He was a first-rate Irish artist.

Music: Classical

My favourite music is the set of six symphonic poems titled Ma Vlast (My Country) by the Czech composer of the 19th Century, Bedrich Smetana, and recorded in 1959 by the Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra.

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