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Murray, Linda, née Bramley

    Full Name: Murray, Linda, née Bramley

    Gender: female

    Date Born: 1913

    Date Died: 2004

    Place Born: Herne Bay, Kent, England, UK

    Place Died: Farmoor, Oxfordshire, UK

    Home Country/ies: United Kingdom

    Subject Area(s): Renaissance


    Renaissance scholar. Bramley was the daughter of J. F. Bramley, an exporter, and Hélène Marie Blanche Manso di Villa. She was educated principally by her mother, preferring to travel with them rather than attend boarding school. French and English were her native tongues; she rapidly learned Spanish and Italian. She studied painting at the Académie Royale des Beaux-Arts, Brussels. During World War II Bramley worked for the U.S. High Command in London where her skill as an artist was put to work drawing maps of the damage from bombing raids on the continent. She moved to Eisenhower’s staff engaged in intelligence. After the war she entered the Courtauld Institute where her classmates included Oliver Millar and Peter Murray. She married Murray in 1947. As Linda Murray, she began teaching in London University’s department of extramural studies in 1949. Although she taught a variety of subjects, her medieval architecture classes and tours were especially popular. In 1952 she and her husband, now a lecturer at the Courtauld, channeled their pedagogical energies into two support works of art history, a translation, Classic Art: An Introduction to the Italian Renaissance, by Heinrich Wölfflin, and the Dictionary of Art and Artists. The Dictionary established their collaborative working method: dividing the research and write up between them and then passing it to the other for revision. The Dictionary was an immediate success and pair became the most famous “art history couple” in the modern age. Another collaborative work, Art of the Renaissance was issued in 1963. She became a regular contributor for the Thames and Hudson series of introductory books on the history of art: The High Renaissance in 1967 and The Late Renaissance and Mannerism in 1967. In 1967, too, her husband took a permanent appointment at Birkbeck College, London, a school for adult and evening learners, as the chair of the new department of art history. She wrote a novel, based on Caravaggio’s life, The Dark Fire, published only in America, in 1977. While writing and revising she also renovated the Dulwich, south London, home where they lived. She retired from the extramural studies program (now part of Birkbeck), in 1979. In 1980 she published a Thames and Hudson primer on Michelangelo. The same year her husband retired from Birkbeck and the couple moved to the village of Farnborough, north of Oxford, near Banbury. There Murray issued her second book on MIchelangelo, Michelangelo: His Life, Work and Times in 1984. Her husband died at Farnborough suddenly in 1992 in the midst of a collaborative book on Christian Iconography. Murray moved to Woodstock and saw The Oxford Companion to Christian Art and Architecture to completion in 1996. The couple’s dedication to adult-based education led her to established the Murray Bequest to Birkbeck College, donating their large collection of books to the library. Eventually she located to Oaken Holt House at Farmoor. Throughout her life, she suffered numerous illnesses which forced her to undergo 26 operations in her lifetime. Murray’s art history emphasized stylistic analysis, careful attribution and the search for reliable evidence about the authorship and provenance of works of art. She had little sympathy with the theoretical bias of the “new art history” of the 1970’s and 1980’s. She always insisted on the importance of direct experience, especially for architecture. (Draper)

    Selected Bibliography

    translated, with Murray, Peter. Wölfflin, Heinrich. Classic Art: An Introduction to the Italian Renaissance. The Phaidon Press, 1952; and Murray, Peter. The Art of the Renaissance. New York : Oxford University Press , 1963; and Murray, Peter. The High Renaissance and Mannerism. London: Thames & Hudson, 1967; The Dark Fire: a Novel. New York: Morrow, 1977; Michelangelo. New York : Oxford University Press, 1980; Michelangelo, his Life, Work and Times. New York: Thames and Hudson, 1984.


    [obituary:] “Linda Murray, Scholar Who, with her Husband, Made the Art of the Renaissance Accessible in a Series of Bestselling Books.” The Times (London) November 19, 2004, p. 70; Draper, Peter. “Linda Murray: Historian who Popularised Renaissance Art.” The Guardian (London) November 24, 2004, p. 29.


    "Murray, Linda, née Bramley." Dictionary of Art Historians (website).

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