Artist influenced by Baroque masters creates dynamic, dramatic paintings; breathes new life into Biblical stories

Ryan Oetting, senior digital media studies major, studies a painting by Frank Murphy Jr. in the art gallery. | Photo by Deanna Santangelo

By Hannah Lutz

A love of art. A talent to paint. An investment in history.

Frank Murphy Jr., whose art is displayed in the Union University Art Gallery, recognized he had been given an ability to create works of art at an early age. His peers and teachers agreed and encouraged him while growing up, which was important to him.

Murphy said his passion for the craft came once he realized he was a skilled artist. It was then he decided to continue developing his talent.

“My early influences and inspirations as an artist came from the fabulous stained-glass windows in my church where I grew up,” Murphy said. “Most Baptist churches do not consider art important to the development and nature of our spirit, but (thankfully) my church did.”

Murphy’s love of sports and athletics also influenced him. His earliest works depicted people playing sports.

Murphy’s art is best described as traditional realism and is heavily influenced by old masters such as Rembrandt and Caravaggio. He appreciates the use of chiaroscuro — the play of dark and light — to emphasize and punctuate the theme of a painting. Even when painting in different styles, he is drawn back toward the contrast of dark and light.

The art displays in Union University’s Art Gallery include many projects he has produced over the past 15 years. Other works in the gallery are about studies and trials he does to keep himself in good practice. Some of the works are pieces he has done as a part of a series he began on modern images from Scripture.

Murphy said his best advice to give other artists is from da Vinci: “Draw. Draw. Draw.”

Drawing is an important key to unlocking all of one’s talents as a visual artist. Murphy also advises not trying to move toward one particular style until an artist has mastered the foundations of good art.

“Your own personality will naturally move you toward where your work is best suited,” Murphy said.

He said he would like to thank Lee Benson and Chris Nadaskay, professors of art, for allowing him to display his work at the university.

“I respect them so much for who they are and for what they do as artists, it has been my privilege to be in classes led by Mr. Benson,” Murphy said. “I hope students will take advantage of having these fine artists on campus.”

Murphy’s art will be displayed through Oct. 5, when there will be a closing reception and gallery lecture at 5:30 p.m. Call Angela McDaniel at (731) 661-5075 with questions about the gallery.

Image courtesy of Cardinal & Cream|Cardinal & Cream
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The Cardinal & Cream is a student publication of Union University in Jackson, Tennessee. Our staff ranges from freshmen to seniors and includes a variety of majors — including journalism, public relations, advertising, marketing, digital media studies, graphic design and art majors.