The Corresponence of James McNeil Whistler

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Charles Fairfax Murray, 1849-1919

Nationality: British
Date of Birth: 1849
Place of Birth:
Date of Death: 1919
Place of Death: London


Charles Fairfax Murray was a painter, draughtsman and collector. His background was an impoverished one and his father died in a Charterhouse.


Murray began his career working in an engineer's office in Westminster. However, he came into contact with the Pre-Raphaelite circle through Dante Gabriel Rossetti, Philip Webb and William Morris, and in November 1866 he became an assistant in the studio of Edward Burne-Jones. He also worked in the studios of George Frederic Watts, and Rossetti, and in the late 1860s or early 1870s, Rossetti introduced him to JW (#10037).

Murray's work included the transferal of Burne-Jones's cartoons to glass for Morris, Marshall, Faulkner and Co. and the preparation of designs for Christina Rossetti's Goblin Market and Other Poems (1862) and for Morris' Earthly Paradise (1868-70). He also copied Old Master paintings in Italy for John Ruskin. His King's Daughters (c. 1875; Dulwich Picture Gallery) was based on Rossetti's poem 'My Father's Close', a translation from Old French.

In 1867 Murray began exhibiting at the Royal Academy in London. He also exhibited at the Grosvenor Gallery from 1877, and then at the New Gallery. His paintings were strongly influenced by the Pre-Raphaelites and by first hand contact with Italian Renaissance painting, e.g. St George and the Dragon (Birmingham Museums and Art Gallery).

Throughout his life Murray travelled extensively, living in London, Paris and Florence. He developed a reputation as an art expert and connoisseur, advising dealers and collectors, including Thomas Agnew and Sons and the American cotton manufacturer Samuel Bancroft jr. Murray also collected rare books and Old Master drawings, for which he privately published catalogues. He made significant gifts to public collections, including Titian's Tarquin and Lucretia (c. 1570) to the Fitzwilliam Museum, Cambridge, and works by Rossetti and Burne-Jones to Birmingham City Museums and Art Gallery. Burne-Jones recommended him as Director of the National Gallery in 1894. In 1910 his collection of Old Master drawings, books and correspondence was sold to J. Pierpont Morgan, becoming part of the Pierpont Morgan Library in New York.


J. Pierpont Morgan Collection of Drawings by the Old Masters, Formed by C. Fairfax Murray, 4 vols, London, 1905-12; Obituary, Times, 28 January 1919, p. 11; Wood, Christopher, The Dictionary of Victorian Painters, Woodbridge, 1971; Robinson, D., 'Burne-Jones, Fairfax Murray and Siena', Apollo, vol. 102, 1975, pp. 348-51; Johnson, J., and A. Gruetzner, The Dictionary of British Artists 1880-1940, Woodbridge, 1980; Elzea, R. (ed.), The Correspondence between Samuel Bancroft, jr. and Charles Fairfax Murray, 1892-1916, Delaware, 1980; Christian, J., The Last Romantics: The Romantic Tradition in British Art, London, 1989; Walkley, Giles, Artists' houses in London 1764-1914, Aldershot, 1994; Elliott, David B., Charles Fairfax Murray: The Unknown Pre-Raphaelite, London, 2000; 'Charles Fairfax Murray', The Grove Dictionary of Art Online, ed. L. Macy, (accessed 29 January 2003).