Howard Murry Estate
“Very often people who come to see my paintings will say to me—“I don’t know anythings about art, but…” They feel, but they are afraid to put trust in their own instinctive feelings. It is true that there are many things that go into the making of a piece of art and the artist may spend many painful years mastering them; but I do not think that the average layman need much concern himself about them. The test is Do You Like it? Does it suggest something other than
mere surface appearance?” —Howard Murry
The mountains of Western North Carolina have carved out a tightly knit yet very welcoming culture of creative arts through the centuries that cannot be replicated. The Art Cellar Gallery in Banner Elk, NC is extremely proud and honored to support this culture through an amazing collection of watercolor and oil pieces by Howard Murry (1891-1968). Murry made this area, specifically Valle Crucis, home in 1948 and painted in and around the area from the 1930’s-1968.
During his lifetime, Murry won many recognitions and showed his work mostly within the North Carolina, South Carolina, and Washington D.C. areas. Murry inspired graduate student, Mary Margaret Cheek, to delve into his myriad of works in 1993 with her thesis, “Howard Murry: Paintings of Valle Crucis, 1930-1968”. This thesis illuminates much of Murry’s vivid point of view that he took during his lifetime and subsequently translated into his artwork.
Through said work, Murry identifies with his peers and honors everyday scenes of toil, labor, disaster, joy, and hope that described the agricultural area that the residents of the time grew up with. During Murry’s time, “an anti modernist style and reaction against the modern European style, American Scene Painting was seen as an attempt to define a uniquely American style of art”(art history archive) as a result to war and technological innovation. The Art Cellar Gallery believes that akin to Murry’s pieces are other American Scene Painters such as Thomas Hart Benton in regards to
subject matter and tone.
His aim was to identify and make accurate and nostalgic records of the his mountainous home as well as the lives of its denizens of the time. As a result, the people of Murry’s time and modern day residents clearly and vividly recognize many places and structures that make up their very own surroundings such as St. John’s Episcopal Church and historic family houses. As Ms. Cheek described, “Murry felt that art should not only be a reflection of man’s environment, but that it should be presented in such a way as to be understood by ordinary people”(89). Murry has achieved this in spades. For example, the personal connection the Art Cellar Gallery has observed during our short stewardship is undeniable. Additionally, the tumultuous time period in which Murry lived and which is reflected in his work: two wold wars, a great depression, and a sudden change in technological advances, lends itself to be a precious record of a pivotal time in American History that cannot be ignored.