Tonight I attended an after hours event at the Whitney Museum. While I did check out the new exhibits, I probably enjoyed the gallery with selections from the Whitney’s permanent collection the most. In one section among works by Edward Hopper, Man Ray, and Joseph Cornell is the painting “Cocktail” by Gerald Murphy (1927).
During the 1920s, Americans Gerald and Sara Murphy lived a charmed life on the French Riviera. Cultured and stylish, they swam, sunbathed, danced, and dined with their circle of friends who included the likes of Fitzgerald, Hemingway, and Picasso. It was also the decade that saw an artistic outpouring from Gerald who produced 14 paintings in the Cubist-style, which were well received. Tragedy struck the Murphys in 1929 when their son, Patrick, became ill with tuberculosis; Patrick and his brother, Baoth, would both die a few years later. Gerald never painted again.
Today, only eight of his paintings are known to still exist including “Cocktail.” It is a perfect painting for the Jazz Age. Titled after what one drank in a speakeasy, it features a martini glass and cocktail shaker along with a corkscrew and an all-important lemon for a twist. There’s also a large box of cigars. Devoted to his family, Gerald included five cigars to represent him and his family members. The collection of items, lined up in an orderly fashion, is modern and sophisticated, just like its painter.