Leda and the swan

Born Sydney, Australia 1902, died Sydney 1989


Arthur Murch studied with Dattilo Rubbo at the Royal Art Society School (1921–23) and with the sculptor Rayner Hoff (1923–25). Murch won the New South Wales Society of Artists Travelling Art Scholarship in 1925 with a sculptural work, and travelled to England to study in London later that year.

Returning to Australia in 1927 he became an assistant sculptor to George Lambert, with sculptural commissions becoming the major focus of his art practice for the next decade. Returning to Europe from 1936 to 1940, Murch was profoundly affected by modernism and the work of Paul Cézanne and Georges Seurat. His painting, which had been romantic in style, became more cubist and reflected experiments with colour and light. Figures took on a more rounded, sculptural form and were rendered in diffuse tones of pink, blue and yellow, creating a luminous effect. The mythological tale Leda and the swan became a theme in Murch’s work from this time, and from which he regularly quoted throughout his career.

In 1942 Murch was appointed as an official war artist and was stationed in the Northern Territory for six months. He returned to teaching drawing and sculptural modelling at East Sydney Technical College and in 1949 he won the Archibald Prize.

Murch was represented in the touring exhibition Art and Australia 1788–1941 presented by the National Gallery of Art, Washington D.C. (1941–45). He was given a posthumous tribute exhibition at the Art Gallery of New South Wales (1990) and a retrospective exhibition toured regional New South Wales in 1992. His work is held in the collections of the National Gallery of Australia, the Australian War Memorial and most state and regional galleries.