Doris Murray

“My educational background combined both Science (including bacteriology) and Art. I can identify both worlds and these paintings combine my interest and my background.”
– Doris Murray (Artist’s statement, exhibition catalogue for “Microscopia: Experimental Abstracts,” McIntosh Gallery, 1971)

Doris Murray was born in Princeton, New Jersey. She graduated from Smith College in Northampton, Massachusetts with a BA (she majored in Zoology and minored in Art). Despite this multidisciplinary background, Murray did not devote herself to painting until over a decade after graduating. Murray worked as a Lab Technician in New York City at the Rockefeller Foundation’s virus laboratory in the early years of her career, and after moving to Canada in 1943, was a lab technician in the microbiology department at McGill University in Montreal.

After settling in London, Ontario, Murray began to paint watercolours with the Gallery Painting Group in 1953. She received training under local artists such as Selwyn Dewdney, who encouraged Murray to pursue a painting practice. Between the late 1950s and the 1970s, Murray’s work appeared in several exhibitions in London and across Ontario. Murray was awarded with First Prize for Watercolours by the Gallery Painting Group in 1958, 1960, and 1965, as well as by the Central Ontario Exhibition in 1967; she also received awards from London, Ontario’s Western Fair, and the then-called Rothman Gallery in Stratford, Ontario (today known as Gallery Stratford).

In addition to Murray’s own background in science, her work was also influenced by the research that her husband, Dr. R.G.E. Murray, conducted in cell wall structure. Murray took an interest in the aesthetic of scientific materials her husband used in his work, such as electron and photomicrographs (photographs taken of objects as they are seen under a microscope).

Murray’s interest in watercolour painting, combined with her appreciation for biology and cell-structure led her to create watercolour paintings that borrowed from the forms of microorganisms. The drab black-and-white of photomicrographs created an invitation for her to experiment with colour schemes and the arrangement of elements in her work.

A series of 18 such works, entitled Microscopia: Experimental Abstracts, was displayed in a June 1971 solo exhibition of the same name at McIntosh Gallery, Western University; the show was in conjunction with the annual meeting of the Canadian Society of Microbiologists in London, Ontario. In the artist statement for this exhibition, Murray articulated that her paintings were abstract and semi-abstract interpretations of organisms’ cell structures, as opposed to scientific studies.

Doris Murray passed away in 1984. A year later, McIntosh Gallery held an exhibition paying tribute to her work and memory.

Biography by Megan O’Neill

 

SOURCES

Archival Materials, Curatorial Study Centre, McIntosh Gallery.

Crawford, Lenore. “Have brush, will travel describes London artist.”
London Free Press, Sept 23, 1972.

Crawford, Lenore. “Art Inspired in Lab.” The London Free Press, June 5, 1971.

MacDonald, Colin S. “Murray, Doris.” A Dictionary of Canadian Artists, 3rd ed. Volume IV,
(Little – Myles). Ottawa, Ontario: Canadian Paperbacks Publishing Ltd., 1979.

McIntosh Gallery. News Release: Two Tributes – Eye of the Soul, Tribute to Doris Murray,
May 8 – June 2, 1985.

Microscopia: Experimental Abstracts. McIntosh Gallery, 1971. Exhibition catalogue.

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