William Martin Murphy (1845–1919) by Sir William Orpen.

Oil on canvas.  Signed ‘Orpen’ lower right 126 x 101 cm. (49 & 5/8 x 39 & 3/4 inches).

Provenance: William Martin Murphy. Anonymous sale. Private collection.

Exhibited: National Gallery of Ireland, Orpen Centenary Exhibition, 1978.

William Martin Murphy was the founder of the Independent Newspapers and this portrait was presented to him by his newspaper employees.

The painting was sold at Dreweatts, Donnington Priory, Newbury, UK.  auction on 6th April 2016 for £39,000 (Sterling).   

A copy of Orpen’s painting hangs in the offices of the Dublin Chamber of Commerce with the chain of office added, it was painted by Margaret Crilly (she married fellow art student Harry Clarke). However, a question mark hangs over this assumption, as a copy was also credited to Leo Whelan, another student of Orpen’s at the Metropolitan Art School, Dublin but that copy did not include the Chain of Office so either Margaret Clarke just added the Chain of Office or there is another copy of Orpen’s painting!

William Orpen’s painting (left) and the copy (right) by Margaret Clarke (née Crilly). Both of these paintings feature in an exhibition entitled ‘Sir William Orpen, A Family Legacy’ at Farmleigh House Gallery, Phoenix Park, Dublin from 15th March to 25th August 2024. They have not been seen side by side since 1912.

William Martin Murphy from Derrymihin West, near Castletownbere in West Cork, was famous for building Tramways and Railways in Ireland, UK, Argentina and West Africa. An MP for St Patrick’s division, Dublin (1885 – 1892). He studied at Belvedere College, Dublin from 1858 to 1863.

Murphy was heavily involved in the Irish newspaper industry (The Nation which subsequently became the Independent newspaper), Clerys Department Store and the Imperial Hotel. He built churches, schools and bridges.  He served as leader of the Employers Federation, President of the Society of St Vincent de Paul and President of the Dublin Chamber of Commerce to which he presented the chain of office below.

    Dublin Chamber of Commerce. Pictures of the chain of office by Conor McCabe Photography.

Murphy refused a Knighthood from King Edward VII in 1907 and that same year was the first President of Milltown Golf Club, Dublin where there is still an annual competition for the William Martin Murphy Cup.





He is probably equally famous for his role in the ‘Dublin Lockout’ which was over his dispute with James Larkin’s attempt to unionise workers and the formation of the ITGWU. Murphy had dismissed over 300 workers he suspected of Union membership. The Lockout lasted from 26 August 1913 to 18 January 1914 and ultimately failed when the workers returned to their jobs.


William Orpen was an admirer of James Larkin and depicts himself with Larkin at Liberty Hall’s Soup Kitchen. The letters/sketches were to his neighbours in Chelsea – Mr & Mrs Legge.

Transcript: – Larkin at Work at Liberty Hall

My Dear Mrs Legge – “Thank you for your letter – Mrs McCalmont sent me £5 this morning – it was good of her – will you thank her for me – I don’t know her address – the good man above (Larkin) is up for his trial today and will most probably get 6 months hard labour- it doesn’t seem right – do it. My love to Robin.

Yours William O       28.10.13″.


Transcript: – Liberty Hall – “My Dear Robin Legge, Here I am at Liberty Hall – dealing out soup to the starved of Dublin – If you meet any with money to spare – yes I got Miss Olive Ryan cheque – you follow suit and send me 10 Shillings to the funds in payment for this and another I intend doing for you if I can keep sober – it’s these disturbing sights and times that drives one to the bottle. Thanks for your letter.

Yours William O

22 October 1913″.


William Martin Murphy was opposed to Hugh Lane’s plan to build an art gallery across the River Liffey. Orpen was one of many supporters of the project.


William Martin Murphy and James Larkin are forever close neighbours in Glasnevin Cemetery, Dublin. 

The Murphy family headstone which is just above the Tomb.

The Murphy family tomb. The gravestone was erected in 2014 as the tomb is unmarked other than by the number 30.

And nearby is the grave of James Larkin.



Post by Dominic Lee – Orpen Research Archives.