Prints and Protest: Bridges Academy Lecture

Throughout history, artists have protested war and injustice, struggled for peace and progress, and imagined Utopian futures. Spanning the 18th century to the present, this talk by John Murphy, PhD, the Hoehn Curatorial Fellow for Prints, will offer a brief overview of art and activism, drawing on examples from the University of San Diego’s growing collection of fine art prints. We will consider how artists such as William Hogarth, Francisco de Goya, Käthe Kollwitz, Elizabeth Catlett, and Charles White have used printmaking as a medium to critique society, to encourage empathy and action, and to promote positive social change. Bridges Academy is a continuing education program hosted by the University of San Diego Office of Planned Giving. 



Blake, Morris, and the British New Left

The Journal of William Morris Studies has published “William Blake, William Morris and the British New Left” in its most recent issue (vol. 23, no. 4). In the annals of English art and literature, William Blake and William Morris stand in sharp relief as figures of promethean energy: poets, artists, engravers, and utopian visionaries. In the 1950s they became vital resources for the British New Left as it confronted the twin specters of western capitalism and eastern communism. New Leftists, having broken ranks with Stalinist orthodoxy, turned to Blake and Morris for fresh models of cultural and political engagement. They served as standard bearers for the concept of ‘socialist humanism,’ put by forward by activist historian E.P. Thompson in the pages of the New Reasoner  as a post-1956 vision of Marxism that drew on Marx’s early philosophical writings on alienationa nd estrangement. For Thompson – whose long career was bookended by studies of Morris and Blake, respectively – both figures proved a necessary complement to Marx by expressing what he called “the great aspirations at the source of the Romantic Revolt.” Their work provided a brief, tantalizing glimpse of what a romantic poetic married to radical politics might conjure – not just a culture of critique, but a visionary “city of art” (Blake’s Jerusalem and Morris’s Nowhere) to which all citizens would contribute as co-creators and collaborators. 


“Pear-Shaped Kings and Orange Presidents: Recognizing Protest Art”

May 20, 2020 | “Pear-Shaped Kings and Orange Presidents: Recognizing Protest Art” 

Artists’ engagement with political and social protest movements is a diverse, vibrant and historically significant topic. This session will reflect specifically on how modern artists – mostly in Europe and the United States – have produced memorable works, in a wide variety of media, to draw attention to injustices and press for change. By initiating the discussion with important examples from the history of art, Derrick Cartwright, PhD, associate professor and director of University Galleries and John Murphy, PhD, Hoehn Curatorial Fellow for Prints and art history lecturer, hope to inspire critical thinking and further conversation about the continued role of artists in protests today.



Charles White: Conference Papers

Presented two conference papers on Charles White in February: 

“‘Meet Mr. and Mrs. Charles White: An Interesting and Talented Combination’”. Paper for panel Rise Up: Power, Protest and Representation in Black Visual and Material Culture, 1835 to Present, College Art Association Annual Conference, Chicago, IL (Feb. 12). 

“Charles White: Art and Reality in the USSR”. Paper for panel African-Americans and
Stalinism: The Visual Culture of Soviet 
Anti-Racism, American Association of Teachers
of Slavic and East European Languages (ATSEEL), San Diego, CA (Feb. 7)



Charles White: The Gordon Gift to the University of Texas

This catalog celebrates Charles White’s remarkable career and legacy and the generous gift of artworks to The University of Texas from Susan G. and Edmund W. Gordon, lifelong friends of White and his wife, Frances. Edited by Veronica Roberts, with essays by Esther Adler, Carter E. Foster, Edmund T. Gordon, Edmund W. Gordon, Rudolph H. Green, Ashley James, John P. Murphy, Jared Quinton, Veronica Roberts, Cherise Smith, and Phillip A. Townsend. 




Heaven on Earth

Joined a faculty panel discussion on the topic of “Heaven, Hell, and Purgatory” sponsored by USD’s Humanities Center. I talked about T.J. Clark’s recent book, Heaven on Earth: Painting and the Life to Come

© John P. Murphy
Using Format