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Australian art

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The idle hour



Arthur Murch


08 Jul 1902 - 23 Sep 1989


I can truthfully say it is the best piece of flesh painting (colour) I've seen ... It was beautifully warmed with the most subtle of grey greens running through, better than Lambert's flesh.

Eric Wilson, 1933

Highlighting his early study under sculptor Rayner Hoff, Arthur Murch first modelled his subject for this painting in plaster in order to study the effects of light. 'The idle hour' exemplifies Murch's skill at painting light and flesh tones. It reveals the influence of the early Renaissance and classical-period statuary on his work, and his own sympathetic observations of family life.

During the 1930s, Murch was a prominent and successful exponent of an approach to painting in which artists sought to tie their depictions of Australian modern life to the classical traditions of European art in their quest for a national culture.


Other Title

Idle hours

Place where the work was made

Thirroul Wollongong New South Wales Australia



Media category


Materials used

oil on canvas on hardboard


81.9 cm diam. sight; 100.0 cm diam. frame

Signature & date

Signed and dated l.r., brown oil "MURCH.33".


Purchased 1933

Accession number


Artist information

Arthur Murch

Works in the collection



Where the work was made

Shown in 7 exhibitions

Exhibition history

Referenced in 11 publications


Isobel Crombie and Elena Taylor (Editors), Brave new world: Australia 1930s, Melbourne, 2017, 64 (colour illus.), 68, 184.

Deborah Edwards, Australian art: in the Art Gallery of New South Wales, 'Classical allusions', pg. 135-136, Sydney, 2000, 136, 144 (colour illus.), 301.

Joseph Eisenberg, Arthur Murch 1902-1989: A retrospective, 'Arthur Murch 1902-1989: a retrospective', pg. 5-11, Armidale, 1992, 8-9. A study for this painting was shown in this exhibition, 37, from the collection of Queensland Art Gallery, Brisbane.

Liz Gibson, Parallel visions: works from the Australian collection, 'Rayner Hoff / Arthur Murch', pg. 60-71, Sydney, 2002, 66 (colour illus.), 145, 147.

Anne Gray, Face: Australian portraits 1880-1960, Canberra, 2010, 104.

Lionel Lindsay, 150 years of Australian art, Sydney, 1938. 161 [Gallery No. 2]

Hal Missingham, A retrospective exhibition of Australian painting, Sydney, 1953. 144

Bernard Smith, 100 years of Australian painting, 'Foreword', pg. 2-4, Sydney, 1948, 9. 43; titled 'Idle hours'

Daniel Thomas AM, Project 19: Arthur Murch, Sydney, 1977. 9

Laurie Thomas (Editor), Jubilee exhibition of Australian art, Sydney, 1951, 45. 140

Tony Tuckson, New South Wales Travelling Art Scholarship 1900 to 1956, Sydney, 1956, 7. 5