Robert Murray

About the Artist

The Canadian sculptor Robert Murray was born in 1936, in Vancouver. However, he spent his childhood years in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan eventually moving to Regina to attend art school.

While a student at Regina College, Murray studied  paintingWorks of art made with paint on a surface. Often the surface, also called a support, is either a tightly stretched piece of canvas or a panel. How the ground (on which paint is applied) is prepared on the support depends greatly on the type of paint to be used. Paintings are usually intended to be placed in frames, and exhibited on walls, but there have been plenty of exceptions. Also, the act of painting, which may involve a wide range of techniques and materials, along with the artist's other concerns which effect the content of a work. (Artlex.com)  and print-making. Though he would eventually be drawn to  sculptureA three-dimensional work of art, or the art of making it. Such works may be carved, modeled, constructed, or cast. Sculptures can also be described as assemblage, in the round, and relief, and made in a huge variety of media. A sculptor is one who creates sculptures. (artlex.com)  as his primary discipline, his time spent working in two dimensions would prove important in shaping his later work as a sculptor.

Murray studied with painters Art McKay and Ken Lochhead, and the influence of these  abstractImagery which departs from representational accuracy, to a variable range of possible degrees. Abstract artists select and then exaggerate or simplify the forms suggested by the world around them.  (Artlex.com)  artists on Murray’s sculptural work can be easily seen. We could simply compare Murray’s curved metal to McKay’s use of circles, or the solid, bold-coloured paints coating his sculptures to those of Lochhead’s colour-field paintings. But we could also look at their sudden and dramatic use of abstraction and the importance placed on geometric form. Along those lines, further influences on Murray’s practice came from the world of painting (Barnett Newman), as well as that of  sculptureA three-dimensional work of art, or the art of making it. Such works may be carved, modeled, constructed, or cast. Sculptures can also be described as assemblage, in the round, and relief, and made in a huge variety of media. A sculptor is one who creates sculptures. (artlex.com)  (Alexander Calder, David Smith, Anthony Caro), as Murray’s works combine bent metal and bold-coloured, uniform paints.

Murray is one of several Saskatchewan artists in the 20th century to have used  steelAn alloy of iron and carbon capable of being tempered to many degrees of hardness. (Artlex.com)  in much of his work, and despite his beginnings in painting it is this sculptural practice for which Murray is best known. Having received numerous public commissions over the course of his long career, Robert Murray has helped to both challenge and define the ways we think about public art in North America. It may seem odd now (or perhaps not), but his commissioned fountain for the City of Saskatoon was met with controversy. Titled Rainmaker and produced in 1960, the sculpture is an abstract work in dark-green steel, with sweeping arcs and curves supported by triangular legs. Apparently, the  abstractImagery which departs from representational accuracy, to a variable range of possible degrees. Abstract artists select and then exaggerate or simplify the forms suggested by the world around them.  (Artlex.com)  nature of the work caused frustration among many citizens of Saskatoon, who thought that the public  sculptureA three-dimensional work of art, or the art of making it. Such works may be carved, modeled, constructed, or cast. Sculptures can also be described as assemblage, in the round, and relief, and made in a huge variety of media. A sculptor is one who creates sculptures. (artlex.com)  should have connected very clearly and obviously to the local industry of agriculture through  representationalTo stand for; symbolize. To depict or portray subjects a viewer may recognize as having a likeness; the opposite of abstraction. A representation is such a depiction. (Artlex.com)  sculpture. In other words, they did not believe that it represented their way of life as accurately as a realistic  sculptureA three-dimensional work of art, or the art of making it. Such works may be carved, modeled, constructed, or cast. Sculptures can also be described as assemblage, in the round, and relief, and made in a huge variety of media. A sculptor is one who creates sculptures. (artlex.com)  of a grain farmer would have.

Murray also received criticism for being the designer of his sculptures but not the welder who put them together.  Interestingly, this has since become a bit of a non-issue in the art world, with many successful artists hiring technicians to build their works. At any rate, Murray defended his work and the City of Saskatoon, where Rainmaker sits today, stood its ground on its choice of commission.


Canadian Heritage University of Regina Mackenzie Art Gallery Mendel Art Gallery Sask Learning