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Classic Covers: Jack Murray’s Wilderness

Published: June 1, 2012

Doe and Fawns by Jack Murray from April 29, 1933

"Doe and Fawns"
from April 29, 1933

This beautiful Jack Murray deer cover is from 1933. Murray was born in Pittsburg on August 12, 1889, the son of two opera stars, J.K. Murray and his wife, the former Clara Lane.

The Murrays received many invitations to sing in Europe. These were refused, as the family was not fond of ocean journeys, and for good reason.

When Mr. Murray was a boy, his parents and siblings took a voyage across the Atlantic.The ship ran into a storm, losing its rudder. For a full miserable month, it was tossed around mid-ocean until rescue arrived.

Not surprisingly, the horrifying incident cast a long dark shadow on thoughts of travel for years to come.

Jack Murray “showed an early interest in wildlife art, making his first drawings when he was nine years old, and getting into taxidermy at fourteen,” according to the Russell Fink Gallery, of Lorton, Virginia, which specializes in wildlife art.

Leopard by Jack Murray from August 29, 1931

"Leopard"
from August 29, 1931

In the 1920s Murray began to get work drawing and painting for advertising agencies. (Most Post illustrators, including Norman Rockwell, did artwork for ads.)

From the Russell Fink Gallery: “In 1926 he and Mrs. Murray bought a farm outside the city to use as a summer place. Here he fixed up a studio where he could keep on with the major interest of his life, the painting of wildlife.

It was work that had been relegated to spare moments over the years, but the turning point came when one of these “hobby” paintings was accepted as a cover by The Saturday Evening Post.” That was this leopard painting from 1931.

Legendary publisher George Horace Lorimer made The Saturday Evening Post a showplace for stunning wildlife paintings, a determination that makes us grateful today when we see covers like Murray’s 1934 cover of bear cubs (below).

At a time when the importance of conservation was a relatively new concept, it gladdens us to see the obvious respect the artist had for these splendid creatures.

The John Denver lyrics, “He’d be a poorer man if he never saw an eagle fly,” make perfect sense when you’ve been privileged to witness nature’s everyday wonders.

In addition to a dozen Post covers, Murray illustrated for books and magazines such as Boys’ Life, Outdoors, Better Homes and Gardens, and several others, at the rate of at least a cover a month.

He declined an invitation for an exhibit of his work in Paris, either because of his demanding schedule or because of the ingrained family inclination to avoid ocean voyages.

Murray passed away in 1965.

Reprints of Murray’s Saturday Evening Post covers (with or without the masthead) can be obtained by contacting Curtis Publishing and will soon be available at Art.com.

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  • What a great feature on Jack Murray!

    ‘Doe and Fawns’ has to be one of the most beautiful covers EVER! Absolutely breathtaking. Thank God Jack and his family didn’t lose their lives during that terrible childhood voyage. I can totally understand his lifelong fear of ocean travel.

    ‘Bear Cubs in River’ is another stunning cover of beautiful animals. His deep love of animals and wildlife is very apparent.

    ‘Leopard’ is breathtaking! What a debut; my God.

    ‘Soaring Bald Eagle’ is yet another classic beauty. This eagle looks a little angry to me. The eyes and claws are a little menacing. No doubt if Jack HAD gone to Paris he would have been highly celebrated!

    ‘Polar Bear’? Fantastic. Thanks for the tips on getting reprints, too.