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.
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".
© Murch Family. Licensed by Copyright Agency
Where the work was made
Shown in 7 exhibitions
100 years of Australian painting (1948), Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney, 19 Apr 1948–17 May 1948
Jubilee exhibition of Australian art:
- Tasmanian Museum and Art Gallery, Hobart 12 Mar 1951–31 Mar 1951
- Queen Victoria Museum and Art Gallery, Launceston, Launceston 09 Apr 1951–28 Apr 1951
- Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney 25 Jun 1951–21 Jul 1951
- Queensland Art Gallery, South Brisbane 06 Aug 1951–01 Sep 1951
- Art Gallery of South Australia, Adelaide 24 Sep 1951–20 Oct 1951
- Art Gallery of Western Australia, Perth 12 Nov 1951–10 Dec 1951
A retrospective exhibition of Australian painting, Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney, 25 Sep 1953–25 Oct 1953
New South Wales Travelling Art Scholarship 1900 to 1956, National Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney, Apr 1956 -
Project 19 - Arthur Murch (1977), Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney, 30 Jul 1977–28 Aug 1977
Parallel Visions: Twenty-two artists from the Australian collection, Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney, 22 Feb 2002–May 2003
Brave New World; Australia 1930s, National Gallery of Victoria [St Kilda Road], Melbourne, 14 Jul 2017–15 Oct 2017
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, cat.no. 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. cat.no. 161 [Gallery No. 2]
Hal Missingham, A retrospective exhibition of Australian painting, Sydney, 1953. cat.no. 144
Bernard Smith, 100 years of Australian painting, 'Foreword', pg. 2-4, Sydney, 1948, 9. cat.no. 43; titled 'Idle hours'
Daniel Thomas AM, Project 19: Arthur Murch, Sydney, 1977. cat.no. 9
Laurie Thomas (Editor), Jubilee exhibition of Australian art, Sydney, 1951, 45. cat.no. 140
Tony Tuckson, New South Wales Travelling Art Scholarship 1900 to 1956, Sydney, 1956, 7. cat.no. 5