Longtime Angus artist Frank Champion Murphy, 89, of Wheaton, IL, passed away June 28 after suffering a broken hip earlier this year.
Murphy will be widely missed by the national Angus community. He is best known for his nearly 60-year career creating artwork for the American Angus Association and its entities.
He was born in Vinton, IA, in 1920 and grew up near Chicago. Like his artistic mother, Murphy developed a love for art and spent summers on his mother’s family ranch near Brownsville, Texas. While pursuing an industrial economics degree and a double-minor in journalism from Iowa State University, Murphy met and married Evelyn Brown, his beloved wife of 67 years.
During World War II, Murphy served in the Navy for more than a year on an amphibious ship in the Pacific. Following the war, Murphy began to pursue his dream by enrolling in the Chicago Academy of Art and beginning a career as a freelance artist working on assignments for Quaker Oats and other clients.
In 1951, the Chicago, Ill., artist was commissioned by Angus public relations masterminds Lloyd Miller and Harry Barger to illustrate the popular advertising campaign for the then-American Aberdeen-Angus Breeders’ Association (the name was changed to American Angus Association five years later).
The quality of his art and contrast of those early drawings depicted well the Angus breed’s physical attributes, black hair and hides that – until then – proved difficult to capture with the relatively primitive photography and printing processes of the times.
He was quickly commissioned for additional drawings and continued to illustrate Association national advertisements – approximately 45 in all – from 1951 to 1975, until photographs were introduced to the campaign in 1976.
In 1973, Murphy’s painting of the first Angus bull imported from Scotland appeared on the 8-cent postage stamp to commemorate the 100th anniversary of Angus in the U.S. It and many of Murphy’s more than 80 Angus paintings and drawings were reproduced as promotional prints and distributed to thousands of Angus enthusiasts, livestock publications and others throughout the world. In fact, the Association and Angus Foundation continue to offer more than 15 different framing prints featuring Murphy’s art.
Murphy’s dedication to the Angus breed and its people has continued more than a half century. The artist continued to actively paint Angus cattle in a variety of settings until 2009, including more than 37 oil and acrylic paintings, most of which hang at Association headquarters in Saint Joseph, MO.
His artwork has generated thousands of dollars for the Angus Foundation, and the Angus Journal has featured six covers in the last five years displaying his most recent works. He was inducted into the Angus Heritage Foundation in 1993 and into the Honorary Angus Foundation in 2006.
Thanks to Murphy, along with other contributing artists, today the American Angus Association is home to the world’s largest collection of contemporary beef cattle art.
More than 130 works – including oil paintings, acrylics, pastels, watercolors, wash drawings, charcoal sketches and sculptures – record the evolution of the Angus breed in the United States.
Murphy is survived by his wife, Evelyn; son Tom; daughter Julie (Rich) Heller; a granddaughter and several nieces and nephews.
A Memorial Service will be held at 1:30 p.m., Thursday, July 15 at the First United Methodist Church of Glen Ellyn, 424 Forest Ave., Glen Ellyn, IL 60137.
In lieu of flowers, memorial contributions may be given to the Angus Foundation, 3201 Frederick Ave., St. Joseph, MO 64506, or The School of the Art Institute of Chicago, 37 S. Wabash Ave. Suite 818, Chicago, IL 60603. For additional funeral information, call 708-352-6500.
Murphy’s artwork can be viewed in the book, “Angus Art at the American Angus Association,” available through the Angus Foundation at http://www.angusfoundation.org, or directly via tour of Association headquarters in Saint Joseph, MO.
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